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Sad news for music fans when news of one of the founding members of the Kool & the Gang, Ronald Khalis Bell passed away. This sad news happened on Sept. 9, 2020. At this time the cause of his death has not been disclosed. Bell passed away in his home on Virgin Island. He was 68-years-old when he died.
The Soulful Musician’s Past
Bell was born on Nov. 1, 1951, in Youngstown, Ohio. He and his brother Robert “Kool” Bell co-founded the band Kool & the Gang. They started the group in 1964 with Dennis “D.T.” Thomas, Charles Smith, Robert Mickens, and Ricky West.
Bell acted as the band’s main composer and he arranged the band’s instrumentals. He was a master on the saxophone and keyboard.
The group won a Grammy for album of the year in 2014 for the soundtrack to “Saturday Night Fever.” That same year they earned the BET Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award.
Throughout the band’s history, it has weathered through multiple changes in its personnel. Kool & the Gang also tried their hand at a few different music genres. Soul, jazz, funk, rock, and pop music to name a few.
The Group’s Accomplishments
A few of the band’s well-known songs are “Celebration,” “Get Down on It,” and “Jungle Boogie.”
He not only provided his vocal cords to the group, but he also taught himself to play the saxophone. Throughout the 1970s and the 1980s, the group earned the love of music fans everywhere. Bell helped co-write all of the groups’ major hits. His favorite hit that he wrote was the song “Celebration.” This is a wedding disco classic that has been a fan favorite for years.
The band received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2015. The received this honor for their contributions to the world of entertainment. The group was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in the year 2018.
Bell was extremely excited when the group Public Enemy sampled a few of Kool & the Gang’s songs for their Fear of a Black Planet album. He was “thrilled” to listen to the album.
In a previous interview, Bell said that he could make out the music from his group. “You know it was compound and compact but you can hear Kool & the Gang music all that hip-hop.”
It was the rise of hip-hop — mixed with Taylor leaving the group in 1989 — that ultimately ended the group’s presence on music charts. Bell continued to play with the group throughout the 1990s and 2000s as a legacy act.
In recent years, Bell has worked on a solo album called Kool Baby Brotha Band. He has also been working on an animation series based on the band’s childhood and career.
Bell surviving family members are his wife Tia Sinclair Bell, his 10 children — Kahdijah, Nadirah, Rasheed, Liza, Maryam, Aminah, Jennah, Khalis, James, and Asia — grandchildren, siblings, and his band members. Of course, his many fans miss the musician as well.
The family is planning on holding a private funeral service for Bell. They have asked for Bell’s fans to support the Boys and Girls Club of America instead of sending flowers. May he rest in peace.
Written by Sheena Robertson
Billboard: Ronald ‘Khalis’ Bell, Co-Founder of Kool & the Gang, Dies at 68; Heran Mamo
BBC: Ronald Bell: Kool & The Gang founder dies aged 68; Mark Savage
Rolling Stone: Kool & the Gang Co-Founder Ronald ‘Khalis’ Bell Dead at 68; Jason Newman
IMDb: Kool & The Gang; PW
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