Dino Danelli, The Rascals’ Drummer, Dies at 78

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The Rascals (l. to r.):Dino Danelli, Eddie Brigati, Felix Cavaliere, Gene Cornish

Dino Danelli, the drummer for the ’60s hitmakers the Young Rascals, later known simply as The Rascals, died today (Dec. 15, 2022). His death at age 78 was announced on his Facebook page. Fellow Rascals member Gene Cornish posted a tribute shortly thereafter, writing, “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.”

Dino Danelli was born July 23, 1944, in Jersey City, N.J. Trained in jazz drumming, he played with vibraphonist Lionel Hampton in the early ’60s, but moved into rock music by 1962. He soon met Eddie Brigati (vocals and percussion) and Felix Cavaliere (vocals and keyboards); Danelli and Cavaliere tried to find work in Las Vegas before heading back to the East Coast in 1964. Reuniting with Brigati, and with Cornish joining them, the quartet took on the name the Young Rascals in 1965 and began making a name for itself on the New York/New Jersey/Long Island circuit as a dynamic blue-eyed soul show band. Danelli was a true showman, known for twirling his drum sticks in concert and on the band’s TV appearances.

Cavaliere posted a tribute to Danelli. “My mind is flooding with memories of his talent, humor, friendship and commitment to the music that he loved. It’s fitting that Dino played drums – he moved to the beat of his own drum. Still, he was the strongest beat for The Rascals. His artistry as a painter captured that same zest for life and rock and roll attitude. I will miss him dearly. Rest in peace, my brother.”

Managed by Sid Bernstein, famous for promoting New York-area Beatles concerts, the Young Rascals signed with Atlantic Records and placed their first single on the charts in late 1965, “I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore.” The Rascals then continued to evolve musically, tapping into the spirit of the mid-to-late ’60s with a series of memorable singles, three of which reached #1 on the Hot 100. The infectious “Good Lovin’,” their second release, reached #1 in 1966. It was followed in 1967 with “Groovin,” which reached the top in May 1967, shortly before the Summer of Love. It held the #1 slot for four non-consecutive weeks. (The band’s sound was so mass appeal that the song also reached #3 on the Soul singles chart.)

Watch them perform the song on The Ed Sullivan Show on March 20, 1966, with Danelli’s twirling drum sticks

“Groovin'” had a slow, laid-back style and featured the lyric “Life would be ecstasy, you and me endlessly groovin’.”

Related: See where “Groovin'” ranked among the top radio hits of 1967

This ad for the Rascals’ third career #1 appeared in the July 13, 1968 issue of Record World

One year later, they earned a third #1 hit, “People Got to Be Free.” That same year, they also shortened their name to simply The Rascals. All told, they earned nine Top 20 singles between 1966-68, including “A Girl Like You,” “How Can I Be Sure” and “A Beautiful Morning.”

The original lineup began to splinter when Brigati left in 1970 and Cornish followed in 1971; Cavaliere and Danelli carried on into 1972. The foursome were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 by one of their biggest longtime fans, Steven Van Zandt. Brigati and Cavaliere were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2009.

Related: 16 songs that’ll make you feel groovy

The group reunited in 2012 for a unique series of theatrical concerts, The Rascals: Once Upon a Dream, directed and produced by Van Zandt. The biographical production premiered in December of that year with six shows at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, N.Y., followed the next year by a run on Broadway and an East Coast tour.

Related: Musicians we’ve lost in 2022

Cavaliere still actively tours as Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals and played several 2022 concerts with Cornish. Brigati also survives Danelli.

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  1. v2787
    #1 v2787 15 December, 2022, 18:43

    I was lucky enough to see the Rascals perform twice back in the sixties. Dino Danelli was a magician on the drums and a great showman. I can still see him twirling those sticks and flying around the drumset. May he rest in peace.

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  2. Bob
    #2 Bob 15 December, 2022, 19:19

    Peace to you Dino . Rest easy .

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  3. Batchman
    #3 Batchman 15 December, 2022, 20:13

    So you say “Groovin” “featured the lyric “Life would be ecstasy, you and me endlessly groovin’.” How could you not mention its frequent mishearing as “you and me and Leslie” – a classic mondegreen.

    Reply this comment
    • Jeff Tamarkin
      Jeff Tamarkin 16 December, 2022, 00:17

      Where I came from it was “You and me LSD groovin’.”

      Reply this comment
    • Da Mick
      Da Mick 16 December, 2022, 02:44

      Never got the Leslie translation. But neither did I get the “endlessly” at the time. As Jeff inferred, we all heard what we wanted to hear there, and for me also it was “You and me, LSD” Those were the days.

      Reply this comment
  4. Paul K
    #4 Paul K 16 December, 2022, 01:15

    Good Lovin’ I’ve seen covered by the Dead more times than I can count, but have never seen the rascals version live unfortunately. The thing with Groovin’ that I remember from my youth, is that it’s absolutely one of the coolest songs of all-time!!!! Far out man! Godspeed Dino, I’ll be Groovin’ with you sooner than later bro, cancer got my days numbered.

    Reply this comment
  5. Rollbert
    #5 Rollbert 16 December, 2022, 10:29

    Just give the Rascals song “What is the Reason” and the drums propel the vocals. Dino D and the Rascals ruled the club scene in N.Jersey 60’s.

    Reply this comment
  6. Da Mick
    #6 Da Mick 16 December, 2022, 12:28

    Like so many of you are, I’ve been a huge Rascals fan from their very first record. In retrospect, so many things about the uniqueness of this band occurred to me, all over again — things that I’ve thought of at different times over the years but came flooding in all at once. The first, of course, is Dino, and his amazing style of drumming that was so tightly energized and driving, yet somehow managing to be flamboyant while he was the ultimate of cool, all at the same time. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen or heard any drummer toss off a triplet out of nowhere with as much compression as Dino could do effortlessly. But here’s the thing. The Rascals were, in essence, an R&B band. And who ever heard of an R&B band with no bass player? While they had a bass on their recordings, Dino never seemed to miss it live as he just raged on while the band just hung the music on his relentless attack. Like the Four Season before them, and like Vanilla Fudge after them, the Rascals were primarily a group of Italian guys who could sing their asses off. But while the Rascals had two excellent lead vocalists, like those other two groups I mentioned, the Rascals’ background vocals had an extraordinarily unique timbre and blend that was a signature part of their sound. No other professional background vocalists ever sounded as soulfully real as the original singers in any of these three groups. And as you’ll see in their live videos, their vocal abilities are very real, as they played and sang almost all their TV performances live, with the exception of “How Can I Be Sure,” performed on the Ed Sullivan Show, where Eddie actually sings live on top of his own recorded vocal track, doubling it all the way through. Speaking of this TV performance, I love how Sullivan’s production designer integrated the band into a fantasy dance sequence that they shot separately beforehand, but then cut into their live performance during the show. While so much is said about the sixties, they often follow cliches that don’t really epitomize the immense changes that were taking place everywhere during that time. It’s these types of touches, on the most popular family variety show in the country, that really signify the unique cultural expressions that were happening in so many areas, simultaneously given mass distribution by our TV sets, that blew it all into the living rooms of a multifarious public where the younger half was enthralled, while the other half couldn’t quite figure out what the hell was going on. So much has been written about how the Rascals were some of the finest representations of Blue-Eyed Soul. And while they certainly were that, most soul bands of those days generally locked in step to create a groove. The Rascals did it by being wild and free flowing. Dino, of course, was a huge part of that. But then there was that magical Hammond B3 that Felix used to replace the tabletop organ sounds that most bands had when the Rascals hit the scene. That was soulful. And who ever heard of a rock, or soul, guitarist playing these big-bodied Trini Lopez modeled guitars for that kind of music? The Rascals just did it their own way, and what came out of that alchemy was some of the best pop music ever made. It still makes me smile…. Goodbye Dino. Thank you, Brother.

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  7. Tystick
    #7 Tystick 16 December, 2022, 13:29

    Just a great band. I love the Rascals and their unique sound. Godspeed Dino. Your music will live on. We are losing our heroes too fast. “Groovin’ on LSD!

    Reply this comment
  8. Rusty
    #8 Rusty 18 December, 2022, 15:19

    Was Dino ever in the Army

    Reply this comment
  9. Ken
    #9 Ken 29 December, 2022, 18:07

    The rascals were my first love. I probably saw them four or five times and each time my focus was on Dino. There was just something about the way he played. That was captivating.

    Reply this comment

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