Photo courtesy of Tia Sinclair Bell
Ronald "Khalis" Bell, Co-Founder Of Soul-Funk Greats Kool & The Gang, Dies At 68
Khalis wrote and produced a number of the '70s band's famous tracks, such as “Celebration,” “Cherish,” “Jungle Boogie,” “Summer Madness” and “Open Sesame”
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.
Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images
Melvin Edmonds Of R&B Vocal Group After 7 Dies At 65
Edmonds was the "soul" and "signature element" of the group said member Keith Mitchell
Melvin Edmonds of GRAMMY-nominated late-80s R&B vocal group After 7, known for hits like "Ready Or Not," has died at the age of 65.
His death was confirmed by After 7 group member Keith Mitchell via Facebook. The cause of death has not been officially released. Essence reports Edmonds died Saturday after battling a short illness. The singer had a stroke in 2011 among other health issues, according to CNN.
"I will miss you; I love you, and Melvin, your legacy will live on through the music we created together!!" Mitchell said in the post.
Edmonds was the "soul" and "signature element" of the group, wrote Mitchell, which the two co-founded along with one of Edmonds' brothers Kevon. After 7 had three singles land on the Billboard Hot 100 in the '90s. The singles, "Can't Stop," "Ready Or Not" and "Heat Of The Moment" all hit the top 20. The group was nominated for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal for "Can't Stop" at the 33rd GRAMMY Awards.
Beyond a musician, Edmonds was a father of four and brother to five, including Kenny "Babyface," Marvin Jr., Michael, Kevon and Derek.
"Melvin's love for audiences and fans everywhere who supported our music is what drove him on stage and in life. He is and will be missed by my family, fans, and friends," Mitchell said.
Keith Wilder, Heatwave Lead Singer, Dies
The GRAMMY-nominated "Boogie Nights" and "Always And Forever" singer dies at age 65
Keith Wilder, the lead singer of GRAMMY-nominated '70s R&B/funk hitmakers Heatwave, died Oct. 29 at the age of 65. Wilder's death was confirmed by the group's manager, Les Spaine, via Rolling Stone. No specific cause of death has been confirmed, although fellow Heatwave band member Billy Jones told Dayton.com that Wilder died in his sleep.
Wilder, who was born in Dayton, Ohio, formed Heatwave in 1975 in Germany with his brother, Johnnie Wilder Jr., who was serving in the Army. The duo subsequently enlisted songwriter/keyboardist Rod Temperton, drummer Ernest "Bilbo" Berger, bassist Mario Mantese, and guitarists Eric Johns and Roy Carter.
In 1976 the group released their debut album, the platinum-plus Too Hot To Handle, which peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard 200. The album spawned the hits "Boogie Nights" (No. 2) and "Always And Forever," both of which attained platinum status. Heatwave's sophomore LP, Central Heating, hit No. 10 on the strength of the Top 20 hit "The Groove Line." The group's third album, 1980's Hot Property, was certified gold.
Moving into a new decade, Heatwave released 1980's Candles and 1982's Current. By then, the group had lost Mantese, Wilder Jr. and Temperton, who at that point was emerging as a go-to songwriter for the likes of Michael Jackson, George Benson and Michael McDonald, among others.
Keith Wilder revamped Heatwave for 1988's The Fire, and kept the band alive as a touring entity into the '90s. While Wilder continued to tour in recent years, he was forced to retire from the road after suffering a stroke in 2015.
Wilder scored two nominations with Heatwave at the 20th GRAMMY Awards: Best Arrangement For Voices for "All You Do Is Dial" and Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo, Group Or Chorus for "Boogie Nights"
"Johnnie was a MONSTER singer whose harmony game is unmatched," said Questlove in an Instagram post. "No REAL singer worth their grain of salt NEVER denied his mastery."
Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images
Mel Tillis, Legendary Country Singer/Songwriter, Dies
Songwriter who wrote hits for Kenny Rogers, Tom Jones and Brenda Lee dies at age 85
Mel Tillis, one of the more prolific singer/songwriters in country music history, died Nov. 19 following a battle with intestinal issues. He was 85 years old.
With a catalog of more than 1,000 songs, Tillis released more than 60 LPs over his six-decade-plus career. In the 1970s, Tillis hit a stride with a string of country chart smashes, including "Good Woman Blues," "Heart Healer" and "Coca Cola Cowboy."
What a truly devastating loss. I loved Mel. I will miss him terribly. My thoughts and prayers to all his family.— Blake Shelton (@blakeshelton) November 19, 2017
In addition to his successful solo career, Tillis wrote a variety of hits for artists such as Brenda Lee ("Emotions"), Webb Pierce ("I'm Tired"), Kenny Rogers ("Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town"), Charley Pride ("The Snakes Crawl At Night"), George Strait ("Thoughts Of A Fool"), Ricky Skaggs ("Honey, Open That Door"), and Tom Jones ("Detroit City"), among others.
Mel Tillis was old school. He said what he thought in his songs & they meant something. Any group needs a song that puts them on the map & the First Edition had that w/ "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town," thanks to Mel. We will always be thankful for that. I'll miss Mel a lot. pic.twitter.com/NLuACgRzkX— Kenny Rogers (@_KennyRogers) November 20, 2017
Photo: Frans Schellenkens/Getty Images
British Composer Oliver Knussen Dies At 66
The GRAMMY-nominated composer was known for his operatic adaption of "Where The Wild Things Are" and was awarded the 2015 Queen's Medal for music
British renowned composer and conductor Oliver Knussen has died. The influential GRAMMY nominee worked with many great orchestras, including the London Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and most recently the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.
Knussen's death was announced by his publisher, Faber Music, on July 9. The publisher did not release a cause of death, but the BBC reports that the composer died "after a short illness."
"Knussen was one of the world’s most eminent and influential composer-conductors and leaves behind him a body of work of crystalline concision, complexity and richness," Faber Music said on their website. "His impact on the musical community – both in the U.K. and around the world – was extraordinary, and is a testament to his great generosity and curiosity as a musician, as well as his unfailing love and deep knowledge of the art form."
Born in Glasgow in 1952, Knussen was just 15 years old when he wrote his first symphony. The composer worked with the late children's author Maurice Sendak in the '80s to create an operatic adaptation of "Where The Wild Things Are," one of his most famous works. A year after creating the opera, Knussen once again collaborated with Sendak on an operatic adaptation for another of his books, "Higglety Pigglety Pop!"
Knussen was also the music director of the London Sinfonietta, artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival, and artist in association with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, among other roles. He was nominated for a GRAMMY five times during his career and won many other awards, including the 2015 Queen's Medal for music and the Ivor Novello Award for Classical Music.