10 September 2020 16:43
Ronald Bell, the saxophonist and singer who has died aged 68, was a founder member of Kool & the Gang, the American R & B group whose worldwide hits in the 1970s and 1980s – many of them written and produced by Bell – include Jungle Boogie, Get Down On It, Cherish and the party anthem Celebration. Bell was surrounded by musical influences from childhood onwards. Born in Youngstown, Ohio, on November 1 1951, he moved with his family to Jersey City when he was nine. There, his older brother Robert adopted the street nickname "Kool". Their father Bobby was a former Golden Gloves bantamweight boxing champion and, having turned professional, came to know many musicians who led a similarly itinerant life.
He was a jazz fan – the boys' mother sang in a church choir – and he became friendly with Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, who was Robert's godfather. When they turned to music themselves, initially Ronald and Robert only had paint cans to use as drums. They would play on a pitch by the subway in Greenwich Village, making, Ronald recalled, "about $5 in three weeks." He started what would become Kool & the Gang with his brother and five friends from Lincoln High School when he was about 13. It seems like we're saying goodbye to too many great people far too quickly these days. Kool and the Gang was a popular pop group of the 1970s and 80s that was made up of a group of New Jersey school friends and founded by two brothers, Robert Bell, known as "Kool" and Ronald Bell, known as "Khalis." Now, one of the founders of the influential group is gone as Ronald Bell has died at the age of 68.