Dino Danelli, drummer with blue-eyed soul pioneers the Rascals in all their incarnations, has died at age 78.
“It is with a broken heart that I must tell you of the passing of Dino Danelli,” guitarist Gene Cornish wrote Thursday on social media. “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 co-founded the band as the Young Rascals in 1965 with Cornish, keyboardist Felix Cavaliere and percussionist Eddie Brigati, and everyone but Danelli contributed lead vocal parts. The New Jersey outfit debuted with “I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore” and followed with another eight Top 20 singles, including the No. 1 hits “Good Lovin,’” “Groovin’” and “People Got to Be Free.”
They changed their name to the Rascals after three albums, then began exploring conceptual themes on projects like 1969’s gold-selling Top 20 hit Freedom Suite. The Rascals turned toward jazz following their seventh album, 1971’s Search and Nearness, and a subsequent lineup change. They split after one more LP, then reunited in 1988, 2010 and 2012. The Rascals were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
Watch the Young Rascals Perform ‘Good Lovin”
Along the way, Danelli came to accept the fact that they’d always be known as a “blue-eyed soul” band. “People need labels for things, so that one seemed like a good label. How do you describe guys that sing like black guys, are influenced by R&B music, and play that way?” Danelli said in 1998. “Felix sang with that voice that sounded like he was black; Eddie to some extent did also. … So, you put all that stuff on a record and what do you get?”
Some assumptions followed, but Danelli just saw it all as good music. “We were getting this crossover, which was fabulous for radio,” he said. “We’d arrive at a place and people would say, ‘Wow, you guys are white?’ It’s just a rock ’n’ roll band with a good R&B base.”
Joe Russo, who maintains the band’s online profile, told fans: “You all made it possible for him to live his dream, which was to be a musician and artist.” For Danelli, “art was his life – 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. He was beyond private and, for someone who many consider one of the greatest drummers of all time, humble to a fault.”
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