Ronald ‘Khalis’ Bell, Kool & The Gang Co-Founder, Dies At 68
Ronald “Khalis” Bell, the co-founder of the Grammy Award-winning R&B band, Kool & the Gang, died in his home in the U.S. Virgin Islands Wednesday morning. The music icon’s death was announced by one of Universal Music’s publicists, with details not released to the public as of yet.
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Under other names, the group that eventually formed Kool & the Gang played clubs throughout New York. Bell helped launch the latest incarnation of the band in 1964 with his brother Robert “Kool” Bell, and fellow Jersey City natives Charles Smith, Ricky West, Robert “Spike” Mickens, George Brown and Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas. All of them shared an innate musical talent, with Bell being a proficient saxophonist and vocalist with a love of jazz.
While their roots were firmly jazz, the members of the band recruited Gene Redd as a producer and Woody Sparrow as a guitarist to help them write their funk-influenced, self-titled debut instrumental album in 1969. Kool & the Gang moved their sound further toward funk on their next two albums. This move expanded their reputation and allowed them to survive throughout the 70s and well onto the 80s, unlike many other bands who had trouble transitioning into the next decade.
Upon landing a gig at the Apollo, Bell, at one point, informed Gibbs, “We came out geared for one thing and like at our first show at the Apollo, we had to change our thing to play something that the people would understand. It’s the demands of the people that’s pulling us on the path we are going.” The group would cement their cultural impact by having hit songs appear on the soundtracks of popular films such as Rocky, Pulp Fiction and Undercover Brother.
Bell is survived by his brother, wife and ten children.