Kool & the Gang Drummer George Brown Dead at 74

The co-founding member of the funk band had stage 4 lung cancer

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Nov 17, 2023

Founding Kool & the Gang drummer George Brown has died. He was 74, and is survived by his wife, Hanh Brown, and five children: Dorian, Jorge, Gregory, Jordan, Clarence and Aaron.

The news was confirmed in a statement from Universal Music Enterprises, which shared that the musician passed away in Los Angeles yesterday (November 16) after revealing his stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis earlier this year. He had announced his retirement at the same time — almost 60 years after the band began.

Nicknamed "Funky," Brown was responsible for co-writing hits like "Celebration," "Ladies Night," "Too Hot" and "Joanna." He also produced the band's latest album, People Just Wanna Have Fun, and opened up about his illustrious career in the memoir Too Hot: Kool & the Gang & Me.

The late musician helped launch the band in 1964 as one of the seven school friends — including the late Dennis Thomas and Ronald "Khalis" Bell — from Jersey City who originally came together as an instrumental jazz-soul group called the Jazziacs.

By 1969, they were going as Kool & the Gang, which would go on to become a household name. They signed to De-Lite Records and released their self-titled debut album the following year. In 1973, Kool & the Gang found their rhythm by incorporating new disco trends into their sound, first breaking into the US Top 10 with "Jungle Boogie" in 1973 and "Hollywood Swinging" in 1974.

Since then, the band has won seven American Music Awards and two Grammys, as well as registering 31 Gold and Platinum records to date.

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