*“Kool & The Gang” has been called one of the world’s greatest and most versatile bands of all time. Since its inception in the mid-1960s, the two-time Grammy winning group has blended its brand of R&B, soulful jazz, funk, disco and pop music into a winning formula that has sold more than 70 million albums worldwide.
The group’s massive musical portfolio contains such hits as “Celebration,” “Cherish,” “Jungle Boogie,” “Summer Madness,” “Open Sesame,” “Funky Stuff,” “Get Down on It,” “Ladies Night,” “Too Hot,” “Tonight,” “Joanna,” “Fresh,” “Hollywood Swinging,” and many more.
Altogether, “Kool & The Gang” has amassed 25 Top Ten R&B hits, nine Top Ten pop hits, 32 gold and platinum albums, and seven American Music Awards. “Kool & The Gang” can now add a star on Hollywood Blvd.’s Walk of Fame to the group’s ever-growing portfolio, as the ensemble was recently honored in Hollywood, California.
“We wrote a song about it (‘Hollywood Swinging’); so now we are here, “said Robert “Kool” Bell, the group’s chief architect and bass player. “It’s been a long time coming, but we are very happy and excited about receiving this star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.”
A long time coming may be an understatement, as the group recorded “Hollywood Swinging” in 1974 and watched the song skyrocket to No. 1 on America’s R&B chart. Yet, the roots of “Kool & The Gang” date back to 1964, when the Bell brothers, Robert and Ronald, created a jazz, soul and funk band with neighborhood friends in Jersey City, New Jersey.
After going through a variety of band names, starting with the “Jazziacs,” the group settled on its current name, before launching their debut album, entitled “Kool & The Gang.” Over the next five-plus decades, the group became a non-stop hit machine, whose music has also been featured on movie soundtracks. The song “Summer Madness” was included on the Grammy-winning movie soundtrack for “Rocky.” “Open Sesame” was featured on the top-selling soundtrack of all time, “Saturday Night Fever.”
While the music industry has changed over the past 50 years, with trends and fads coming and going at a rapid pace, for “Kool & The Gang”: The band plays on! With original members Robert “Kool” Bell on bass, Ronald Bell on tenor saxophone, Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas on alto saxophone, and George “Funky” Brown on drums, now bolstered with newer band members, “Kool & The Gang” remains in great demand for national and international audiences.
“I just want to thank our fans for supporting us for these 50 years,” Bell said. “It’s because of them that we are still here. And we still love what we do.”
Today, many hip hop/rap artists are sampling the music of “Kool & The Gang” which gives credence to the old axiom, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” With the exception of James Brown’s storied music and band, it’s believed that “Kool & The Gang” is the most sampled band in the history of recorded music. Some of the many hip hop/rap artists who have sampled or collaborated with the band are, Lil’ Kim, Heavy D., “The Beastie Boys,” Sean Paul, Ashanti, “Blackstreet,” the duo of Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff and many more.
When asked about the group’s secret to longevity.
“Our parents always told us that whatever we do, we have to stick together,” recalled Bell, who recently turned 65. “And that’s what we’ve done. There’s been lots of ups and downs, changes of lead singers and other things, but we have our four core and original members that are still around. We stuck together!”