Dino Danelli, the drummer who added jazz virtuosity to The Rascals’ rock ‘n’ roll sound, died Thursday in New York City, according to his Facebook page and confirmed by his bandmates.
He was 78.
“It is with a broken heart that I must inform you of Dino Danelli’s passing,” Rascals guitarist Gene Cornish posted on social media. “He was my younger brother and the best drummer I’d ever seen. At the moment, I am devastated.”
“Dino, rest in peace. I adore you, sir.”
Danelli was a New Jersey native who picked up a few gigs before forming the Young Rascals with Felix Cavaliere, Eddie Brigati, and Gene Cornish. The band made their debut at Garfield, New Jersey’s Choo Choo Club.
Their numerous hits, including “Good Lovin’,” “Groovin’,” “People Got to Be Free,” “A Beautiful Morning,” and “How Can I Be Sure,” added elements of soul, jazz, and complex arrangements and instrumentation to the era’s rock-pop sound.
Steven Van Zandt, a member of the E Street Band, first saw the band in 1965 at the former Keyport Roller Drome in New Jersey. Bruce Springsteen was also present.
“They were absolutely amazing, and it was one of the most inspiring performances of my life,” Van Zandt said in 2013 to the Asbury Park Press, a member of the USA TODAY Network. “It stayed with us, half rock, half soul, so we owe a lot to them.”
Danelli’s drumming contributed significantly to the group’s success. Rock drummers were not the coolest guys in the room until he arrived. Danelli changed that with an attitude reminiscent of the bop cats of New York City’s jazz scene, where he learned his trade.
On stage with the Rascals, he brought his maniacal jazz chops, which helped define the band’s unique rock sound, as well as his stick twirls, which helped define the Rascals’ look.
The group’s original run lasted until 1972. Following that, various incarnations were formed for tours. Danelli started his own band, Bulldog, before joining Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul.
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Over the years, the band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 was the only time all four members appeared on stage together. That night, Van Zandt did the honours. All four appeared together in the Broadway play “The Rascals: Once Upon a Dream” in 2013.
Van Zandt and his wife, Maureen Van Zandt, produced the multi-media show. There was also a subsequent tour, but the group did not survive in its original form. Cavaliere and Cornish are touring as Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals right now.
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According to Joe Russo, who is in charge of Danelli’s affairs, there will be no formal funeral for Danelli.
“Thank you for your support throughout his career,” said Russo on the Danelli Facebook page. “You all made it possible for him to pursue his dream of becoming a musician and artist.”