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Ronald Bell (1951–2020), co-founder of Kool & the Gang

by Linnea Crowther

Ronald Bell was a musician who co-founded Kool & the Gang and wrote and composed songs including their 1980 No. 1 hit, “Celebration.”

Kool & the Gang

Also known as Khalis Bayyan, Bell co-founded Kool & the Gang along with his brother, Robert “Kool” Bell, and several neighborhood friends in 1964. The band was initially named the Jazziacs, but they chose the new name in 1968 and released their debut album in 1970. Bell played tenor saxophone in the band, as well as synthesizer. He wrote and co-wrote several of the band’s biggest hits, including “Jungle Boogie,” “Ladies Night,” “Get Down on It,” and “Cherish.” Bell said “Celebration” was his favorite of Kool & the Gang’s songs. Along with his band mates, Bell was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Bell recorded and toured with Kool & the Gang for decades, and at the time of his death, he was working on a solo album.

Bell on the enduring popularity of “Celebration”

“I had no clue, you know. I was clueless, thinking that that was going to be a hit. I had no idea. But after all these years, there are times at the end of the show when I see all of these people singing a song, and after all of an hour and a half, you ask them to jump up and down and they still jump up and down. That’s kind of overwhelming for me.” —from a 2008 interview with Reuters


Tributes to Ronald Bell

Full obituary: Rolling Stone

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