Ronald “Khalis” Bell co-wrote many of Kool and the Gang’s most popular songs, including 1980’s “Celebration”
Ronald “Khalis” Bell, singer and co-founder of Kool & the Gang, died Wednesday at his U.S. Virgin Islands home at age 68, his rep confirmed to multiple outlets.
A cause of death has not been released.
In 1964, Bell and his brother, Robert “Kool” Bell — who were teenagers at the time — formed Kool & the Gang in Jersey City, New Jersey, alongside neighborhood friends Dennis “D.T.” Thomas, Charles Smith, George Brown, Robert “Spike” Mickens, and Ricky West.
After initially calling themselves The Jazziacs, the group changed its name several times before settling on Kool & the Gang, performing under monikers including the New Dimensions and the Soul Town Band, according to Variety.
By the 1970s, they had become one of the most popular and celebrated musical groups, blending jazz, soul, funk, rock, and pop music.
Bell co-wrote many of the groups’ most notable songs, which include “Ladies’ Night,” “Get Down On It,” “Jungle Boogie,” “Cherish,” and mega hit, “Celebration.”
“I was reading Scripture where the creator’s gonna create and made an announcement that he’s gonna create this human thing to angels, and the angels were celebrating him for doing so, and that’s also where the idea came from,” Bell told Rolling Stone in 2015 of the inspiration behind 1980’s “Celebration.”
“Three Dog Night had songs about ‘Celebrate’ but there was never a song about a cel-e-bra-tion,” he added. “Everyone around the world, come on, there’s a celebration every second of our lives. Somewhere, someone is always celebrating something.”
Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Bell and the band toured as a legacy group. They most recently released a Christmas album, Kool for the Holidays — their 24th studio album — in 2013.
The group has won numerous accolades, including two Grammy Awards and seven American Music Awards. They were also inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame and received their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2015.
Overall, Kool and the Gang has sold more than 70 million albums, according to Rolling Stone.
At the time of his death, Bell was working on his solo endeavor, Kool Baby Brotha Band, as well as animated shorts about the group called Kool TV, per Variety.
Bell is survived by his wife, Tia Sinclair Bell; his 10 children; grandchildren; brothers Robert, Wahid Bayyan and Amir Bayyan, and sister Sharifah Bayyan.