Ronald Bell, co-founder, saxophonist and 50-plus-year member of the legendary group Kool & The Gang, has died. He was 68.
Bell aka Khalis Bayyan, who played on and wrote many of the group’s biggest hits including “Celebration,” “Jungle Boogie,” “Hollywood Swinging,” “Cherish” and “Joanna,” died Wednesday at his Virgin Island home, several news outlets reported.
Kool & The Gang was formed in the mid-1960s by Bell along with his brother Robert “Kool” Bell and neighborhood friends Dennis “DT” Thomas, Robert “Spike” Mickens, Charles Smith, George Brown and Ricky West. The group started out as a traditional jazz ensemble, but eventually evolved into one of the premier funk bands of the 1970s.
By the 1980s, the group took on a more pop and R&B sound, bringing in lead vocalist James “J.T.” Taylor. Their new musical direction led to a string of commercially successful albums and the group’s lone Billboard No. 1 hit, “Celebration,” which was written by Bell.