Kool & The Gang’s Ronald ‘Khalis’ Bell Dies Suddenly Aged 68
Ronald ‘Khalis’ Bell, a co-founder and singer of Kool & The Gang, has died aged 68.
According to a statement from his publicist Sujata Murthy, Bell passed away ‘suddenly’ early yesterday morning, September 9, in his home in the US Virgin Islands with his wife, Tia Sinclair Bell, by his side. The cause of death hasn’t been revealed at the time of writing.
Formed in 1964, the band – made up of Bell, his brother Robert ‘Kool’ Bell and friends Spike Mickens, Dennis Thomas, Ricky Westfield, George Brown and Charles Smith – was originally called the Jazziacs.
By 1969, they settled on Kool & The Gang, with Bell going on to co-write and produce classic tunes like Celebration, Jungle Boogie, Cherish, Summer Madness and Open Sesame. He reportedly has a catalogue of 1,000 songs as a writer.
In a 1974 interview with Black Music, as per uDiscoverMusic, Bell explained his inspiration:
My greatest influence was John Coltrane. When I heard him, that was it, then I knew. It was like a call you know and after I heard him that was the only thing that I could hear. He was like a god as far as the saxophone was concerned, he was like a master and that’s what brought me into it.
The type of music he was playing and the names of the songs, it was really meaningful and that’s what brought me into it. Once I understood what ‘A Love Supreme’ was, that was it, that was the call right there.
Kool & The Gang went on to win a Grammy in 1978 for their unforgettable work on Saturday Night Fever. In total, they won two Grammy Awards, seven American Music Awards, 25 Top Ten R&B hits, nine Top Ten Pop hits, and 31 gold and platinum albums.
In 2015, they were honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, with Bell being inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame three years later.
In an earlier interview with Sounds in 1975, Bell said: ‘As long as you remain humble, you’ll be successful. If you let success get to you, you lose all impetus to move. But in our minds, jazz is the most creative source of inspiration. I hate the term jazz; in French it means noise. And that’s not true.’
Bell is survived by his wife Tia, 10 children: Kahdijah, Rasheed, Nadirah, Liza, Maryam, Aminah, Jennah, Khalis, Asia and James; brothers Robert, Wahid Bayyan and Amir Bayyan, and his sister, Sharifah Bayyan.
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