Remembering Dino Danelli

The dynamic drummer who provided the pulse of the Rascals gone at 78

The late, great Dino Danelli (Image: Facebook)

He had McCartney-eque good looks and could keep a big beat in a style similar to Keith Moon and John Bonham, but drummer Dino Danelli never got the recognition accorded to his peers.

Nevertheless, as the man who powered the propulsion behind the Young Rascals, later simply known as The Rascals, he was every bit as vital to that classic combo as any of his bandmates. 

Danelli, who died Thursday at age 78 in New York City from as-yet unexplained causes, joined the eventual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees when the group was first formed in 1965 and remained a constant throughout their entire career. He, singer/keyboardist Felix Cavaliere, guitarist Gene Cornish, and percussionist Eddie Brigati had a remarkable string of hits throughout the mid ‘60s, including “Good Lovin’, “Groovin’,” “A Girl Like You,” “A Beautiful Morning,” “People Got To Be Free,” and a number of others spread over the expanse of the nine albums the band recorded between 1965 and 1972.

Even a cursory listen to the surge found in songs like “A Girl Like You” or “People Got To Be Free” relects the power and prowess of Danelli’s dynamic and demonstrative drumming technique, just as a song like “Groovin’” and the band’s more jazz-influenced efforts shared his gift for subtlely and soul. The latter came as no surprise considering the drummer’s early apprenticeship with Lionel Hampton and the various R&B bands he played with which Brough him from his native New Jersey to New Orleans. 

His own skill and savvy was especially evident and apparent when the Rascals reunited for their first public performances in 2012 under the aegis of a tour titled “Once Upon a Dream,” a multi-media event overseen by longtime fan Little Steven Van Zandt and his wife, Maureen Van Zant. He was a powerhouse performer indeed.

 

VIDEO: The Young Rascals perform “Good Lovin'” on The Ed Sullivan Show

Yet, even while Cavaliere remained content to carry the band’s banner forward as a solo act, Danelli took a lower profile after the Rascals’ demise. He and Cornish went on to form the short-lived band Bulldog and Danelli then went on to play with the late Leslie West before reuniting with Cornish to form the group Fotomaker in the mid ‘70s along with Wally Bryson, a former member of The Raspeberries. Danelli’s last major turn in the spotlight coincided with his role as a member of Van Zandt’s band Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul in the early ‘80s.

His final musical venture found him sitting behind the boards for a New York singer/songwriter named Roxanne Fontana. He produced her album Love Is Blue in 1999 before all but abandoning music and devoting himself to visual arts instead.

Nevertheless, Danelli’s legacy lingers on. Cornish posted this on his Facebook page when sharing the news of his longtime friend’s passing. “It is with a broken heart that I must tell you of the passing of Dino Danelli. 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.”

No doubt many of the band’s fans can concur.

 

 

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Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

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