Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

KOOL and the GANG

Disco-funk band, began mid-'60s: 19 top 40 pop singles '73--85. Robert 'Kool' Bell (b 8 Oct. '50) on bass and vocals, Ronald Bell (b 1 Nov. '51, both from Youngstown OH) on tenor sax began with Dennis Thomas on sax, Robert Mickens on trumpet as Jazziacs in high school in Jersey City NJ; lead guitarist Claydes Smith (b 6 Sep. '48), George 'Funky' Brown on drums (b 5 Jan. '49, both from NJ) were long-time members of the group. As Jazziacs played at Cafe Wha in Greenwich Village on a bill with Richie Havens; first single 'Kool And The Gang' made top 20 R&B '69: dance hits derived from Sly Stone style, live LPs Live At The Sex Machine '71, Live At P.J.'s '72, Good Times '73 preceded breakthrough no. 33 LP Wild And Peaceful '74 incl. three hit singles. Kool Jazz '74 was a compilation; Light Of Worlds '74, Spirit Of The Boogie '75, Love And Understanding were all top 100 LPs, but Open Sesame '76 and The Force '77 were not; they slipped as the disco boom they had anticipated got under way, but added lead vocalist James 'JT' Taylor (b 16 Aug. '53, SC) and came back with Ladies' Night '79 (prod. by Deodato), no. 13 LP with title single no. 1 R&B, top ten pop; Celebrate! '80, no. 10 LP with single 'Celebration' at no. 1 pop (adopted as theme of hostages returning from Iran); Something Special '81, As One '82, In The Heart '83, Emergency '84 all top 30 LPs; Victory incl. 'I.B.M.C.' ('Itty Bitty Midi Committee') celebrating Ronald's prod. of LPs since '83 in studio at home; Robert and Taylor bought land '87 on Bouley Island, off the Ivory Coast of Africa, planning to build a studio. They long had their own De- Lite label, but Forever '87 appeared on Mercury, as have CD reissues. Sweat '89 was an attempt to restart the fun, but their moment had gone.