Kool & the Gang Co-Founder Ronald "Khalis" Bell Dead at 68

Photo: John Morales

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Sep 10, 2020

Khalis Bayyan — known best as Kool & the Gang co-founder Ronald Bell — has died. Per a statement from his label publicist, Sujata Murthy, Bell passed away yesterday morning (September 9) at his home in the U.S. Virgin Islands with his wife, Tia Sinclair Bell. A cause of death was not revealed. He was 68.

Born in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1951, Bell formed the band with brother Robert "Kool" Bell in 1964 following their family's move to Jersey City, rounding out the lineup with high school friends Spike Mickens, Dennis Thomas, Ricky Westfield, George Brown and Charles Smith.

Initially performing as the Jazziacs, they would use other names including the Soul Town Band and the New Dimensions, ahead of settling on Kool & the Gang in 1969. The band would make their debut with a self-titled album the following year.

Kool & the Gang would go on to release over 20 more full-length albums over the course of Bell's life, with the late co-founder writing and producing major hits including "Summer Madness," "Jungle Boogie," "Cherish," "Celebration" and more. The band's music has been sampled by the likes of Ice Cube, Nas, N.W.A. EPMD, Eric B & Rakim, Wu-Tang Clan, Jhené Aiko, Beastie Boys, a Tribe Called Quest, the Prodigy and many more.

Bell continued to tour with Kool & the Gang until his death, opening for Van Halen in 2012 on the band's "A Different Kind of Truth Tour." Both Bell brothers were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018.

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