Dino Danelli, the drummer who brought a jazzman’s virtuosity to the Rascals’ rock ‘n’ roll sound, died Thursday, Dec. 15, in New York, according to his Facebook page and confirmed by his group mates.
He was 78.
“It is with a broken heart that I have to inform you of the passing of Dean Donnelly,” Rascals guitarist Gene Cornish said on social media. “He was my brother and the greatest drummer I ever saw. I am devastated at this point.
“Rest in peace, Dina. I love you brother.’
Danelli was a Jersey City native who took a few gigs before joining Felix Cavaliere, Eddie Brigati and Gene Cornish to form the Young Rascals. The band Garfield debuted at the Choo Choo Club in Garfield.
Their numerous hits, including “Good Lovin'”, “Groovin'”, “People Got to Be Free”, “A Beautiful Morning” and “How Can I Be Sure”, pushed the boundaries of the rock-pop sound of the era with elements soul, jazz and the use of complex arrangements and instrumentation.
E Street Band member Stephen Van Zandt saw the band at the former Keyport Roller Drome in 1965. Bruce Springsteen was also in the audience.
“They were amazing. They were absolutely wonderful, and it was one of the most inspiring performances of my life,” Van Zandt told the Asbury Park Press in 2013. – It stayed with us, half rock, half soul, so we trace our roots to a large extent from them.”
Danelli’s drumming was integral to the group’s success. Until he hit the scene, rock drummers weren’t the coolest guys in the room. Danelli replaced that with an attitude more akin to the bop cats of the New York jazz scene where he learned his craft.
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On stage with the Rascals, he brought his manic jazz chops that helped define the band’s unique rock sound, and his stick twirling also helped define the Rascals look.
The original duration of the group last until 1972. After that, various incarnations formed for the tour. Danelli formed his own band, Bulldog, and later joined Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul.
Over the decades, all four members rarely appeared on stage together, with the notable exception of when the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. Van Zandt earned the night. In 2013, the four reunited to star in the Broadway play Wicked: Once Upon a Dream at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.
The multimedia show was produced by Van Zandt and his wife Maureen Van Zandt,
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There was a next tour, but the group did not last in its original form. Cavaliere and Cornish are now on the road as Felix Cavaliere’s “The Rascals.”
There will be no formal funeral for Donnelly, said Joe Russo, who is in charge of Donnelly’s affairs.
“Thank you for supporting his various endeavors throughout his career,” Russo said on Danelli’s Facebook page. “You all made it possible for him to realize his dream, which was to be a musician and an artist.”
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Jersey Shore native Chris Jordan covers entertainment and features for USA Today Network New Jersey. Contact him at @chrisfhjordan; email@example.com.