Ronald “Khalis” Bell, composer, musician and producer, who co-founded with his brother Robert "Kool" Bell, and Jersey City neighborhood friends, "Kool & The Gang", one of the most popular funk bands of the 1970s, has died. He transitioned from this world at the age of 68 on Wednesday, September 9, surrounded by family at his home in the Virgin Islands. The cause of death has not been given.
Bell was born in Youngstown, Ohio and moved with his family to New Jersey where he pursued music in school. He played many instruments, but felt most drawn to the saxophone. Kool & The Gang burst on the scene in 1973 with the single "Jungle Boogie" from their first album "Wild and Peaceful." "Jungle Boogie" was a call to express your inner funk on the dance floor, or wherever you happened to be when fros were high and bell bottoms were wide.
A versatile, soulful big band, Kool & The Gang, followed up their seminal '73 party hits “Jungle Boogie” and “Hollywood Swingers” with jazzy grooves like "Summer Madness" on their "Light of the World" album (1974) and more party anthems, such as "Ladies' Night" on the "Ladies' Night" album (1979), and "Get Down on it," from the "Something Special" album in 1981, which went gold. Bell was the lead writer behind the group's biggest crossover hit "Celebration" that reached number one on pop charts in the U.S. In 2015, Kool & The Gang received a star on the Hollywod Walk of Fame. Ronald and Robert Bell, George Brown and J.T. Taylor of Kool & The Gang were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018. The band received 7 American Music Awards and 2 Grammy Awards.
Bell credited much of his music to his Muslim name, Khalis Bayyan. He is survived by his wife, Tia Sinclair Bell, two former wives, two sons, six daughters, a step-daughter, step-son and three grandchildren.