Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali has died at the age of 68 following a battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
The rock veteran, who also played with W.A.S.P., Faster Pussycat, Dokken, Billy Idol, Steppenwolf, and others during his five-decade career, was diagnosed in April 2019 and at that time given only six months to live, but he fought hard, becoming a spokesperson for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) and even returning to his drum kit for a triumphant comeback show at Hollywood’s Whisky a Go Go in October last year.
Banali was born on Nov. 14, 1951, in Queens, New York, and in 1975 he moved to Los Angeles, where he played with various artists, including Ozzy Osbourne and Randy Rhoads.
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Five years later, he joined forces with frontman Kevin DuBrow to form what would eventually become Quiet Riot; in November 1983, that band’s third LP, Metal Health, became the first heavy metal album to go No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.
During its long chart run, Metal Health knocked both Michael Jackson’s Thriller and the Police’s Synchronicity out of the top spot, and It eventually sold 10 million copies worldwide. Quiet Riot disbanded in 1989, but reformed with different lineups (with and without Banali) over the years, with Banali rejoining full-time in 2010.
Last November, Banali spoke with Yahoo Entertainment about his cancer battle, admitting that was blindsided by his diagnosis even though the disease ran in his family. “My father died of pancreatic cancer in 1974, and my mother died of lung cancer in 1990. But it's not until it happens to you that you actually have to really be proactive and do the research,” he said. “I always felt like I was in the crosshairs, dodging that bullet. And on April 17 of , that bullet hit home.” He recalled learning the news: “The floor doctor unceremoniously comes in and tells me that I have stage 4 pancreatic cancer, that is has metastasised to the liver, and that he ‘really liked my music.’ And he signed off on the paperwork and walked out.”
Banali said he waited months to go public with his diagnosis because as not only the drummer for Quiet Riot but also the band’s acting manager since 1993, he didn’t want to jeopardise tour dates they already had booked.
When he finally had to step back from touring — the first time in 38 years that he had ever missed any scheduled concerts — he said, “I didn't go public, and I took all the hits — all the mean and nasty posts. You know: ‘Frankie Banali is sitting at home getting fat, while the band is playing without him.’ And the reality was that on April 17, I weighed a hefty 197 pounds, and three months later I was down to 135 pounds. So I certainly wasn't sitting at home having a great time! But I just didn't say anything. And I took all the abuse.”
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However, when he finally made an announcement about his condition, five days before he rejoined Quiet Riot onstage in L.A., he was moved by the warm response. “The [Whisky] was sold-out, and the amount of love and support was across the board,” Banali recalled. “Every single person there was there to support me personally, because now the cancer cat was literally out of the bag. So it was a wonderful experience, and when we finished playing I made a point of going out to the front of the stage as I always do, to shake as many hands as I possibly could. And people were telling me that either they had cancer, or they had a loved one that had cancer and they beat it — and that I can beat it too. That was amazing.”
Banali maintained a positive outlook, telling Yahoo last year, “Right now, I'm living six months at a time. So I'm making the most of every minute I possibly can. I do think that the thing I think I will miss the most, when my time comes, is going to be my wife and my family. I'm going to miss great food. I'm going to miss listening to music every day. But that's just inevitable. I know that cancer, and especially pancreatic cancer, is not something that you can cure. I know that pancreatic cancer is going to be the death of me. The question is going to be when. And I'm not going to waste my time feeling sorry for myself or moping around, because you gain nothing from that, and you gain everything from moving forward.”
Banali is the second member of the classic Metal Health-era Quiet Riot lineup to pass away, following DuBrow, who succumbed to a fatal overdose of cocaine, painkillers, and alcohol in November 2007.
Upon hearing the tragic news of Banali’s death, luminaries from the hard rock world took to social media to pay tribute.