Dino Danelli, founding drummer of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees The Rascals, has died at the age of 78.
The musician’s death was announced by bandmate and guitarist Gene Cornish, who called Danelli the “greatest drummer I’ve ever seen” in a touching Facebook tribute. The group’s archival Facebook page later confirmed the news.
“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,” he wrote. “Rest In Peace Dino I love you brother.”
In a later post, Cornish — who founded the band in 1965 alongside Danelli, keyboardist Felix Cavaliere and percussionist Eddie Brigati — explained that he couldn’t answer all fans’ questions about the drummer’s death, since he was a “very private person.”
“I will say this, Dino never cared about being a ‘rock star’ it was always about the music and art for him,” he wrote. “Everything else was window dressing to him.”
While he may have not cared about the “rock star” title, Danelli certainly was one. The Rascals formed in New Jersey in 1965, when they were originally known as The Young Rascals. In the soul group’s early years, they quickly snagged three No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100: 1966’s “Good Lovin,'” 1967’s “Groovin'” and 1968’s “People Got to Be Free.”
The Rascals — which featured additional members outside of the initial four throughout the years — landed six additional songs in the top 20 throughout their run and found themselves inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. The group released nine albums before splitting in the early ’70s and later reunited for one tour in 1988, another in 2012 and a few other one-off performances and side projects.
Spokesperson Joe Russo wrote on Dino’s Facebook page that the drummer struggled with coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure after declining health and a trip to a rehab center at the top of the year, after requiring an angioplasty over a decade earlier. “He was undemanding, humble, and despite his weakened condition, managed to project a certain air of affability,” Russo shared.
As Russo explained, fans “made it possible for him to live his dream, which was to be a musician and artist.”
“I will say more in the near future about his incredible talent and share experiences from his life he relayed to me, as well as ones we spent as friends and collaborators,” Russo wrote. “I hope you will all continue to appreciate his talent and send him your love. Thank you for supporting his various endeavors throughout his career.”
Danelli and the rest of the band spoke with PEOPLE back in 1997 ahead of their Hall of Fame induction, when Cornish explained what it was like to reunite as a band. “I truly still love all these guys,” Cornish said at the time. “Maybe the Hall of Fame will mature us to the point where we can go, ‘Hey, you were wrong, I was wrong. Shake, pal'”