Kool & the Gang co-founder Ronald ‘Khalis’ Bell dies at 68

Ronald “Khalis” Bell, a co-founder and singer of the group Kool & the Gang, has died

LOS ANGELES — Ronald “Khalis” Bell, a co-founder, singer and producer of the group Kool & the Gang, has died. He was 68.

Bell died at his home in the U.S. Virgin Islands Wednesday morning with his wife by his side, publicist Sujata Murthy said. The cause of death has not been released.

Kool & the Gang grew from jazz roots in the 1960s to become one of the major groups of the 1970s, blending jazz, funk, R&B and pop. After a brief downturn, the group enjoyed a return to stardom in the ’80s.

Bell started the group with his brother Robert “Kool” Bell along with neighborhood friends Dennis “D.T.” Thomas, Robert “Spike” Mickens, Charles Smith, George Brown and Ricky West.

Kool & the Gang won a Grammy in 1978 for their work on the soundtrack for “Saturday Night Fever.” The group was honored with a BET Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014 and inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame four years later.

As a self-taught musician, Bell created his own signature sound using horn lines, bass and synthesizer.

Bell wrote and composed some of the group’s biggest songs including “Celebration,” “Cherish,” “Jungle Boogie” and “Summer Madness,” which was used in several films including “Rocky” and “Baby Boy.” The song was also used in a Nike shoe commercial in 2006 featuring LeBron James.

Bell was working on a series of collaborations including a solo endeavor, “Kool Baby Brotha Band.” He also had plans of putting together a series of animated shorts called “Kool TV” about their childhood and career.

Bell is also survived by 10 children.

Murthy said the service for Bell will be private.

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Ronald Bell: Kool & The Gang co-founder and writer of disco hit ‘Celebration’ dies | Ents & Arts News

Kool & The Gang co-founder Ronald ‘Khalis’ Bell has died, his publicist has said.

Bell, 68, died on Wednesday at his home in the US Virgin Islands with his wife by his side.

The music legend co-wrote many of the band’s most memorable songs, including party favourite Celebration, Jungle Boogie, Ladies Night and Get Down On It.

Ronald Bell (far right) and the rest of Kool & The Gang in 2019

Despite his huge legacy, Bell remained humble when asked about his contributions to music.

“A lot of the songs, I may have spearheaded ’em. But it’s really, with a ‘K,’ the [collective] genius of a band called Kool & the Gang,” he told The New Yorker in 2018.

Kool & The Gang were one of the biggest bands of the 1970s, winning a Grammy award in 1978 for their work on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack – one of the best-selling albums in history.

They are also one of the most sampled artists of all time, particularly for the track Jungle Boogie.

The band were honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame in 2015, and three years later Bell was also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Popular soul website Soul Tracks lists Celebration as one of the greatest disco songs of all time.

Kool & The Gang at the 1982 American Music Awards
Kool & The Gang at the 1982 American Music Awards

The beginnings of Kool & The Gang were formed when Bell and his brother Robert ‘Kool’ Bell would collect old paint cans and use them as makeshift percussion instruments.

They later went on to form the Jazziacs with friends Spike Mickens, Dennis Thomas, Ricky Westfield, George Brown, and Charles Smith.

This eventually became Kool & The Gang.

They made 23 albums spanning decades and have become a staple at weddings and parties.

Bell is survived by his wife and 10 children.

His cause of death is not known.

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