Robert “RZ” Zildjian, the founder of the Sabian Cymbal Company, died on Wednesday (March 27) at the age of 89 after a long battle with cancer. The news was announced on Sabian’s website.

“It is with deep, deep sorrow that we announce the passing of Robert “RZ” Zildjian, our beloved founder and leader,” the statement began. “A tireless and dynamic force within the drum industry, he inspired each one of us in the Sabian family to work harder, to reach farther, to make a difference — and he led us by example.”

Zildjian founded Sabian in 1981 following a dispute with his brother, Armand, over control of the Avedis Zildjian Company, which was founded in Boston by their father in 1928. The Zildjian family has been making cymbals in their native Turkey since the early-17th century. Zildjian chose the name Sabian by taking the first two letters of the names of his three children: Sally, Bill and Andy. Despite the split, the Zildjian company paid tribute to “RZ” on their website.

Sabian cymbals have been played and endorsed by many of the top drummers in rock, including Neil Peart (Rush), Phil Collins, Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chickenfoot) and Terry Bozzio (Frank Zappa, Jeff Beck).

Zildjian is survived by his wife, Willi, their three children and eight grandchildren. A full biography on Zildjian’s life can be found at Sabian’s website.

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