Ronald “Khalis” Bell, the singer, songwriter and saxophonist whose band Kool & the Gang became one of the most famous and musically eclectic funk groups of the 1970s and beyond, died Wednesday at his home in the Virgin Islands . Americans at the age of 68, a confirmed representative of Rolling Stone. A cause of death has not been revealed.
Over 23 albums, from 1969 Kool and the Gang to 2013 Kool for the Holidays Christmas album, the band has grown from an emerging jazz unit to a top-notch funk-soul ensemble into one band. harmonious pop. with the addition of lead singer James “JT” Taylor in 1979. Bell, who adapted Khalis Bayyan’s name later in life, co-wrote many of the band’s lifelong events – including “Ladies’ Night,” “Jungle Boogie” and “Celebration” – which have been incorporated into the national consciousness.
In 1964, Bell and his teenage brother Robert “Kool” Bell, unable to buy drums, collected old paint cans in their neighborhood of Youngstown, Ohio and used them as makeshift percussion instruments. It was a rudimentary way to learn music – the brothers would understand different tones depending on how much paint was in each box – but it kicked off a musical career that spanned over 50 years.
After moving to Jersey City,
New Jersey, the duo opened a store across from the subway in Greenwich Village in New York City, adding inexpensive stacks to their group of paint cans. “We would make about five dollars in three weeks,” Ronald Bell told Rolling Stone in 2015.
The Bell brothers went on to form the Jazziacs with high school friends Spike Mickens, Dennis Thomas, Ricky Westfield, George Brown, and Charles Smith, eventually turning into Kool & the Flames, Jazz Birds, and ultimately Kool & the Gang. Like Jazz Birds, they won the famous Apollo Theater Amateur Night while performing at local clubs in high school.
The band released their self-titled debut album in 1970.
which set the stage for their revolutionary fusion of jazz and funk. “You had a hard time getting us to play R&B,” Ronald told Rolling Stone. “We were die-hard jazz musicians. We’re not stooping over it. We haven’t really tried to do this so far.
“We used to play a lot of street percussion in the ’60s, go to the park and start hitting on drums and all that … We were really punchy from the street [on this album], so we combined that element with listening. jazz, ”he added. “You could feel the jazz element. You could smell the Motown element. ”
In 1972, the group released their first self-produced album Music Is the Message – Bell calls it their “first trip” – with the hard funk wah wah of “Love the Life You Live”. “We were experimenting with synthesizers,” Bell told Rolling Stone, citing James Brown, John Coltrane and Herbie Hancock as the major influences. “You had bands like Chicago and Blood, Sweat and Tears. You had this synergy in the air. We listened to him and tried to find our way. ”
The band reached a turning point, however, with their fourth studio album in 1973, aptly titled Wild and Peaceful, a mix of husky, drab funk and melodious soul. The album spawned three Top 10 hits – “Funky Stuff”, “Hollywood Swinging” and “Jungle Boogie” (the latter recorded in one take) – all co-written by Bell and established the group as a preeminent force. . on the pop and funk power charts alongside Earth, Wind and Fire, Isley Brothers and Sly & the Family Stone.
The group dominated much of the 1970s with the funk-pop classics Light of the Worlds (1974), Spirit of the Boogie (1975) and Open Sesame (1976). With Ladies’ Night of 1979, the group added lead singer James “J.T.” Taylor and incorporated a smoother pop sound with hits like “Too Hot” and the title track.
As many of their funk contemporaries struggled to adapt from the peak of ’70s funk to the’ 80s, Bell’s songs for Kool & the Gang would become some of the band’s biggest hits. Celebrate the 80s! presented the group’s extraordinary “Celebration”, which remains an eternal wedding staple 40 years later.
“I was reading the scriptures where the creator is going to create and I announced that he would create this human thing to the angels, and the angels were celebrating him for doing it, and that’s also where the idea came from” , Bell said. Rolling Stone from the song’s inspiration. “Three Dog Night had songs on” Celebrate, “but there’s never been a song about a celebration. Everyone in the world, come on, there’s a party every second of our lives. Somewhere, someone always celebrates something “.