According to a report from USA Today on Wednesday evening (Sept. 9), Bell, who also sang in the trailblazing funk band, died at his home in the U.S. Virgin Islands yesterday morning. Bell’s publicist, Sujata Murthy, shared that the late artist was accompanied by his wife, Tina Sinclair Bell, at his bedside when he passed. The cause of death has not been released.
Questlove of The Roots paid tribute to Bell, who was a practicing Muslim known by the name Khalis Bayyan, in an Instagram post. “Man. This hurts. I mean everything hurts but to lose Khalis Bayyan (fka Ronald Bell—brother of Robert Kool) his brother Kool May have been the band’s anchor & muscle but I consider KB to be the heart of this powerhouse unit,” he wrote in a portion of the post.
Bell got his start with music alongside his older brother, Robert “Kool” Bell, in Youngstown, Ohio in the 1960s using paint cans as makeshift instruments. They later relocated to Jersey City, N.J., where they would take their musical talents to the front of New York City’s Greenwich Village subway station to play music.
After they formed the Jazziacs in high school with friends Spike Mickens, Dennis Thomas, Ricky Westfield, George Brown and Charles Smith, and undergoing a series of name changes, Kool & the Gang was born. Kool & The Gang released their self-titled debut album in 1970, which set the tone for their iconic fusion of jazz and funk music.
Altogether, Kool & the Gang released 23 albums. Among those efforts were hit singles “Celebration,” “Ladies’ Night,” “Jungle Boogie” and “Summer Madness,” all of which Ronald Bell co-wrote. He also helped pen “Get Down On It,” “Joanna,” “Fresh,” “Misled” and “Cherish.”
Kool & the Gang took home their first Grammy Award in 1979, for their contribution to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.
Bell spent a great deal of the 1990s and 2000s touring with the groundbreaking band.
Ronald Bell and his Kool & the Gang bandmates were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018.
The group has also contributed to hip-hop in a major way by allowing countless rappers to sample their music. “Summer Madness” was reimagined by DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince for their track “Summertime.” Luniz’s “I Got 5 On It” featuring Mike Marshall sampled “Jungle Boogie.” Mase (“Feel So Good”) and DJ Kool (“Let Me Clear My Throat”) both used the band’s “Hollywood Swinging.” Kool & the Gang’s “Ladies’ Night” was remade by Lil’ Kim, Missy Elliott Angie Martinez, Da Brat and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes in 1997 when they did “Not Tonight.” The list of samples used by rhymers courtesy of Kool & the Gang is endless.
Prior to his passing, Bell was reportedly working on a number of collaborative efforts as well as a solo project, Kool Baby Brotha Band. He was also looking to assemble a series of animated short films called Kool TV about the band’s childhood and career.
He is survived by his wife and 10 children: Kahdijah, Rasheed, Nadirah, Liza, Maryam, Aminah, Jennah, Khalis, Asia and James.
XXL has reached out to a rep for Ronald Bell for a comment.
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