Dino Danelli, the founding drummer for The Rascals, died Thursday. He was 78.
“It is with a broken heart that I must tell you of the passing of Dino Danelli,” wrote Rascals guitarist Gene Cornish, per People. “He was my brother and the greatest drummer I’ve ever seen. I am devastated at this moment. Rest in Peace Dino I love you brother.”
Danelli’s death was confirmed by Joe Russo, a friend and archivist of the band. He wrote on Facebook that Danelli’s “primary challenges” were coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure. His health started to decline in 2017, Russo said.
Danelli was born and raised in Jersey City, New Jersey, according to Rolling Stone. He drummed for jazz acts and gigged around New York, Las Vegas and New Orleans before forming The Young Rascals in 1965 with Cornish, Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati.
Their self-titled debut album the following year was certified Gold by the RIAA and coincided with their first No. 1 song, a rendition of “Good Lovin’” by Rudy Clark and Arthur Resnick. The Young Rascals’ second No. 1 song, “Groovin,’” came out one year later.
“To know Dino, you must understand that art was his life,” Russo wrote. “Art, music and film consumed his mind and his heart. He was an insomniac, sometimes staying awake for days, because he was always writing, reading, painting, drawing, watching films.”
The Rascals excised the “Young” from their name in 1968 and found continued success with their “Once Upon a Dream” album and numerous Top 40 songs. The band broke up in 1971 and Danelli and Cornish formed Bulldog, which split in 1975.
Danelli joined several bands throughout the 1980s, including Fotomaker and Steven Van Zandt’s Disciples of Soul. He designed the cover for the latter’s 1987 album, “Freedom — No Compromise.”
“He was the epitome of ‘cool’ and never ceased to impress me with his seemingly endless reservoir of ideas and approaches,” Russo wrote. “The word ‘artist’ is so commonly used…but let me assure you Dino Danelli possessed…a set of skills as profound as any of the great artists you’ve ever read about.”
The Rascals toured together in 1988 and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. They officially reunited in 2012 and launched “The Rascals: Once Upon a Dream,” a musical production that chronicled the band’s history.
That nostalgic production was ultimately canceled after a few years, breaking up The Rascals once again.
“Dino was acutely disappointed about the abrupt conclusion of the Rascals’ triumphant ‘Once Upon A Dream’ reunion at the end of 2013,” wrote Russo. “He asked me to assist him in various approaches, and I did, but it was not to be…[and] his artistic spirit began to drift away.”
Friends including Van Zandt, Billy Joel and Paul Stanley paid tribute to the musician after his death:
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