Ronald Bell: Kool & The Gang founder dies aged 68
Written by Taiwo Adediran on September 10, 2020
He started the band with his brother Robert “Kool” Bell in 1964.
They became one of the most influential soul and funk bands of the 1970s and 1980s, with hits including Celebration, Ladies’ Night and Get Down On It.
Their music also featured in several films including Saturday Night Fever, for which they received a Grammy in 1978, and Pulp Fiction.
Bell died at his home in the US Virgin Islands with his wife by his side, his publicist said. The cause of death was not given.
A self-taught saxophonist and singer, he founded the group in New Jersey along with Robert and five schoolfriends – Dennis Thomas, Robert Mickens, Charles Smith, George Brown and Ricky West.
Their career was split into two distinct halves. In the early 70s, they scored US hits with the foot-stomping funk of songs like Jungle Boogie and Hollywood Swinging. Then, with the addition of vocalist James “JT” Taylor in 1979, they morphed into a hit-making R&B band, scoring the biggest hits of their career as they reached their 20th anniversary.
As the band’s musical director, Bell co-wrote most of their biggest hits, including the wedding disco classic Celebration.