The Young Rascals’ Dino Danelli Dead at 78

Dino Danelli, co-founder of The Young Rascals and considered, by some, as one of the best drummers of all time has died. He was 78 years old.

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Rascals’ historian Joe Russo shared the news in a Facebook post. No cause of death was given specifically, but Russo noted that “His primary challenges were coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure, but there were many others.”

“He was my brother and the greatest drummer I’ve ever seen,” said bandmate Gene Cornish.

Danelli was born in 1944 in Jersey City, New Jersey. He co-founded the Young Rascals in 1965 with Cornish, along with keyboardist Felix Cavaliere and singer Eddie Brigati. The band recorded a No. 1 hit with the cover of Rudy Clark and Arthur Resnick’s “Good Lovin’.” They also scored a No. 1 hit with their own song “Groovin’.”

In 1968, the band renamed themselves, simply, The Rascals, releasing more popular songs, including, “A Beautiful Morning” and “People Got to Be Free.” The group split in 1971.

“I am devastated at this moment,” Cornish added about the death of his friend.

From 1982 to 1984, Danelli played the kit in a band called Disciples of Soul with Stevie Van Zandt, who called Danellli “One of the greatest drummers of all time,” after his passing.

“RIP Dino Danelli,” Van Zant wrote in the post, “One of the greatest drummers of all time. Rascals 1965-1971. Disciples Of Soul 1982-1984. On Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theater in Once Upon A Dream 2013.’ – SVZ”

The band reunited for charity in 2010 and toured North America in 2013, a long with a residency at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York City on Broadway.

See Russo’s statement below, along with a few videos from The Rascals.


My initial intent was to wait several days before commenting further on Dino’s passing. But the high volume of sentiments and inquiries makes it necessary for me as his spokesperson to begin to try and answer your questions and concerns. I will do so here and in this post, although it may take a while due to the situation as it is. Please stay tuned, though. 

Firstly, I am Dino’s spokesman and also The Rascals’ historian/archivist. I administer both Facebook pages, this Rascals page, and Dino Danelli’s official page.

There is no manager or publicist for Dino… I am it. I informed the Facebook page followers of Dino’s passing after contacting immediate family and the other Rascals members. I’m sorry if the news came sudden and seemingly without context, but I felt it was important that the public learned sooner rather than later to avoid inaccurate speculation, which, regardless, started virtually within moments. 

I will attempt to inform you of the circumstances surrounding Dino’s passing while at the same time providing my personal thoughts and reflections of who he was to me, at least in some small, inadequate measure.

To know Dino, you must understand that 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.

Dino was the most private person I knew, so I must weigh the level of detail to this story with my duty to provide some level of closure to his public. I can only touch upon the most essential of points here. There are too many to express in this forum and at this time. My viewpoint is based on detailed historical knowledge and intense first-hand experience across many decades.

Dino was acutely disappointed about the abrupt conclusion of the Rascals’ triumphant “Once Upon A Dream” reunion at the end of 2013. He didn’t want it to end and he was almost obsessed with conjuring ideas to keep the ball rolling. He asked me to assist him in various approaches, and I did, but it was not to be. When this project attempt failed, it seemed Dino’s intense artistic spirit began to drift away. Around this time in 2017, I noticed subtle changes in his movements and ability to walk steady. One day, he asked me to pick him up from a doctor’s visit. We returned to his apartment where he began indicating to me certain wishes he would like honored after his passing. It wasn’t alarming for a man his age to do so, but it seemed unusually sudden and out of left field.

He never indicated there was a particular crisis, but his desire and ability to do the creative things he loved suddenly began dissipating. He stopped being “Dino.” Almost overnight it seemed, a huge aspect of the tremendous personality I knew since I was a teenager virtually began to vanish. Looking back, knowing him as I did, I feel the loss of his creative abilities was the loss of his purpose of life.
The all-night conversations about art, music, movies, and his career history ceased. He never held a full, “normal” conversation again, just brief exchanges. He ended up in the hospital. He didn’t look at the book on the nightstand. Didn’t use the sketch pad brought for him. He just directed his gaze at the television, unresponsive to what was on the screen. After a while, he pleaded with me to sign him out.

In December of 2019 he returned home, but in the early part of 2022, again ended up in a rehab center where his condition incrementally grew worse. He’d spend every day there until his passing. His primary challenges were coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure, but there were many others. He had already required an angioplasty over a decade earlier.

Before my story appears overwhelmingly downbeat, I want to make clear that at no point did Dino ever complain about any aspect of his condition. He never felt sorry for himself or expressed bitterness or regret. He told me during the earliest stages of his illness that “I had a good 75 years.” Dino lived his life on his own terms…always. He left home as a teenager to pursue his dream of being a musician, and he rose to the highest level of that achievement possible. He has been and continues to be a major influence to generations of drummers who are mesmerized with his original style, impeccable, tasteful playing, and heart-stopping showmanship. He didn’t drink wine. But women and song…

He had the most forward-thinking, optimistic sense of determination of anyone I ever knew. He was always thinking and creating with an openness to confront and overcome any challenge that may arise.
We collaborated together over the years on numerous projects. Videos, art, photography, writing. I was his “go-to” guy for so many creative endeavors. The highlight for me was creating music. We wrote, recorded, and produced entire albums worth of songs together. We enjoyed creative telepathy, only impeded occasionally by his stubborn desire for unattainable levels of perfection.

Being a born historian and archivist, I was always attempting to document his great talent for posterity. He was the epitome of “cool” and never ceased to impress me with his seemingly endless reservoir of ideas and approaches. The word “artist” is so commonly used to describe even the slightest level of self-expression, but let me assure you Dino Danelli possessed a mindset, a creative philosophy, and a set of skills as profound as any of the great artists you’ve ever read about. He placed me in charge of his health and affairs, and I was honored to fulfill his wishes to the extent I could. He was undemanding, humble, and despite his weakened condition, managed to project a certain air of affability.

End of part one—I will continue writing my story as soon as time allows- JoeRusso, [email protected] copyright 2022

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