Photo courtesy of Tia Sinclair Bell
Ronald "Khalis" Bell, Co-Founder Of Soul-Funk Greats Kool & The Gang, Dies At 68
Ronald "Khalis" Bell, co-founder of soul-funk greats Kool & The Gang, died the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 9, according to his label publicist, Sujata Murthy. He was 68.
Kool & The Gang won the Album of the Year GRAMMY Award in 1979 at the 21st GRAMMY Awards for their inclusion on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.
They were nominated two other times—at the 17th GRAMMY Awards for Best R&B Instrumental Performance for their album Light Of Worlds and again at the 28th GRAMMY Awards for Best Inspirational Performance for "You Are The One."
Formed in 1964, Kool & The Gang came together when Khalis and his brother, Robert "Kool" Bell, teamed up with their neighborhood friends Spike Mickens, Dennis Thomas, Ricky Westfield, George Brown and Charles Smith. Originally calling themselves the Jazziacs, together they forged a moving mix of jazz, soul and funk. They'd try out a number of different names—The New Dimensions, The Soul Town Band, Kool & the Flames—before settling on Kool & The Gang.
Khalis, who was self-taught, wrote and produced a number of the band's famous tracks, such as “Celebration,” “Cherish,” “Jungle Boogie,” “Summer Madness” and “Open Sesame.”
They are also one of the most sampled artists of all time; the horns from their 1973 funky jam "Jungle Boogie" horns can be heard on over a hundred other songs, including rap classics like Luniz's "I Got 5 On It" and the Beastie Boys' "Hey Ladies."
In addition to songwriting and producing for Kool & the Gang, Khalis was heavily involved in developing new acts, having produced The Fugees' (then called Tranzlator Crew) 1994 debut record, Blunted On Reality.
2019 marked the band's official 50th anniversary. "It's a blessing to be around for 50 years; some groups can't make it for 50 days. We did 50 years, that's an accomplishment," founding member Robert "Kool" Bell said at the GRAMMY Museum last year.