Kool & the Gang have influenced the music of three generations. Thanks to songs like Celebration, Cherish, Jungle Boogie, Summer Madness and Open Sesame, they’ve earned two Grammy Awards, seven American Music Awards, 25 Top Ten R&B hits, nine Top Ten Pop hits and 31 gold and platinum albums. Kool & the Gang has performed continuously for the past 43 years, longer than any R&B group in history. Their bulletproof funk and jazzy arrangements have also made them the most sampled band of all time.
In 1964, Khalis Bayyan (AKA Ronald Bell) and his brother, Robert “Kool” Bell, joined Jersey City neighborhood friends Robert “Spike” Mickens, Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas, Ricky Westfield, George Brown, and Charles Smith to create a unique musical blend of jazz, soul and funk. At first calling themselves the Jazziacs, the band went through various names – The New Dimensions, The Soul Town Band, Kool & the Flames – before settling on their moniker. Over the next several years they solidified their musical chemistry on the rough-and-tumble East Coast music scene supporting acts like Bill Cosby, Ritchie Havens and Richard Pryor. Their self-titled 1969 debut album introduced their signature instrumental sound and fierce horn arrangements and spawned their first Billboard R&B charted single, Kool & the Gang.
In 1969 Kool & the Gang released their self-titled debut album/ It was the introduction to a theme, music is the message, that Kool & the Gang stands by today. The instrumental album was an expression of their deep love of music. It was also an introduction to their signature sound and the fierce horn arrangements created by Khalis, Dee Tee, and Spike. Their debut album spawned their first Billboard R&B charted single Kool & the Gang and later Let the Music Take Your Mind.
In 1970, their audacious sophomore set Live at the Sex Machine peaked at #6 on Billboard’s R&B chart and yielded three hit singles: Funky Man, Who’s Gonna Take the Weight, and I Want to Take You Higher. Next came The Best Of Kool & the Gang Featuring The Penguin, Kool & the Gang Live at PJ’S, Music Is The Message, and Good Times, all of which helped solidify a sound that wowed not only fans but such contemporaries as James Brown and Nina Simone.
The band’s stellar reputation grew with each album, but 1973’s gold disc Wild & Peaceful took Kool & the Gang to another level (#6 R&B, #33 Pop), spurred by the immortal party anthems Funky Stuff, Hollywood Swinging and the platinum smash Jungle Boogie. Hits like Higher Plane (#1 R&B), the classic Summer Madness (featured on the Grammy-winning movie soundtrack Rocky) and LPs Spirit of the Boogie, Love & Understanding and Open Sesame followed. The latter’s title track was featured on the top-selling movie soundtrack of all time, Saturday Night Fever, earning the group their second Grammy.
In 1979, Kool & the Gang unveiled a smooth new sound with Ladies Night. Produced by the legendary Pop/Jazz musician Eumir Deodato, it became their first platinum album. The #1 R&B title track also