Ronald “Khalis” Bell, a co-founder of funk mainstays Kool & The Gang who sang, co-wrote songs and played saxophone, died Wednesday at his U.S. Virgin Islands home. He was 68. A cause of death has yet to be determined.
The band emerged from jazz roots in the 1960s to become one of the biggest funk bands of the 1970s and ’80s, combining elements of jazz, funk, R&B and pop. Bell founded the group with his brother, Robert “Kool” Bell and had neighborhood friends Dennis “D.T.” Thomas, Robert “Spike” Mickens, Charles Smith, George Brown and Rickey West join.
Kool & The Gang took home a Grammy in 1978 for their work on the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever, was honored with a BET Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014 and in 2018, was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.
A father of 10, Bell wrote and composed some of the band’s iconic hits such as “Celebration, “Cherish,” “Jungle Boogie,” and “Summer Madness,” an oft-sampled song which has entered pop culture from use in video games, film, commercials and more.