Founder of ‘Kool & the Gang’ 70s funk band, Ronald ‘Khalis’ Bell, dead at 68: reports

Ronald “Khalis” Bell, who created Kool & the Gang and co-wrote some of the bands biggest hits died Wednesday at the age of 68, according to Rolling Stone.

Bell was a singer, songwriter and saxophonist for the funk band. He died at his home in the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to his publicist.

Rolling Stone wrote, “Over the course of 23 albums, starting with 1969′s ‘Kool and the Gang’ through the 2013 Christmas album ‘Kool for the Holidays,’ the band morphed from upstart jazz unit to chart-topping funk-soul ensemble to smooth pop group with the addition of vocalist James “J.T.” Taylor in 1979.

Bell, who adapted the name Khalis Bayyan later in life, co-wrote many of the group’s perpetual life-event earworms – including ‘Ladies’ Night,’ ‘Jungle Boogie’ and ‘Celebration’ – that have become embedded into the national consciousness.”

According to Rolling Stone, Bell and his brother, Robert “Kool” Bell, began to play drums in 1964 in Youngstown, Ohio, with old paint cans because they could not afford real drums.

The family later moved to New Jersey and eventually the brothers formed a music group in high school that became Kool & the Gang.

“The group released their eponymous debut in 1970, which laid the groundwork for their groundbreaking fusion of jazz and funk,” Rolling Stone wrote.  

In 1972, the group released their first self-produced album “Music is the Message.”

“The group hit their breakthrough, though, with 1973′s aptly titled fourth studio album ‘Wild and Peaceful’ a mix of raucous, brassy funk and mellifluous soul. The album would spawn three Top 10 hits — ‘Funky Stuff,’ ‘Hollywood Swinging’ and ‘Jungle Boogie’ (the latter recorded in one take) — all co-written by Bell and establish the group as both a preeminent pop chart force and funk powerhouse alongside Earth, Wind and Fire, the Isley Brothers and Sly & the Family Stone,” Rolling Stone wrote.

Ronald Khalis Bell

Ronald “Khalis” Bell attends a ceremony honoring Kool & The Gang with a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame on Oct. 8, 2015, in Los Angeles. Bell, a co-founder and singer in the group, has died. He was 68. Publicist Sujata Murthy says Bell died at his home in the U.S. Virgin Islands with his wife by his side. The cause of death has not been released. (Photo by Rich Fury/Invision/AP, file)Rich Fury/Invision/AP

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Kool & The Gang founder Ronald Bell dies aged 68

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