A celebration to last throughout the years
So bring your good times, and your laughter too
We gonna celebrate your party with you
Kool & the Gang is an American Funk, Jazz, Disco, and R&B band founded by brothers Robert and Ronald Bell in 1964.
They were originally formed under the name "The Jazziacs"; at the time of the band's founding, Robert was 14, and Ronald was 12. They played at various clubs in New York City during the 1960s before setting the Kool name for good in 1969.
The main part of the band included Robert (the "Kool" of Kool & the Gang) on bass, Ronald on tenor saxophone, Dennis Thomas on alto sax, Spike Mickens on trumpet, Claydes Smith on guitar, Ricky West on keyboards, and George Brown on drums and other percussion (with occasional keyboards). Their first records were instrumental-only. But in 1973, they signed their first vocalist, Donald Boyce. He would bring the lead vocals for the funk standard "Jungle Boogie", making a name for the band.
Surprisingly, the band was not part of the entire Disco trend. Boyce left the band in 1975, and the band was left behind, sticking more to funk as '70s Disco rose. They would finally get their shot when J.T. Taylor was signed on as lead singer in 1979, lending his pipes to the iconic "Ladies' Night", and following it up with the more R&B "Too Hot". Through this point, West had left, giving up main keyboard duties first to Kevin Lassiter, then to Sir Earl Toon, both of whom also provided vocals.
The Gang would not be caught up in disco's downfall. In 1980, they released their signature song: "Celebration". They would help guide R&B in the post-disco era with songs like "Get Down on It" (1981), "Joanna" (1983), "Fresh" (1984), and "Cherish" (1985).
As time wore on, the band kept working, slowly rotating various members. The Bell brothers, Smith, Mickens, Thomas, and Brown would always be the foundation of the band as other members came and went. They still perform today.
Original keyboardist Ricky West died in 1985. Claydes Smith died in 2006. Spike Mickens died in 2010. Ronald Bell died on September 9, 2020, aged 68, at his home in the U.S. Virgin Islands; his death was described as "sudden". Co-founder Dennis Thomas died August 7, 2021.
- Kool and the Gang (1970)
- Music Is the Message (1972)
- Good Times (1972)
- Wild and Peaceful (1973)
- Light of Worlds (1974)
- Spirit of the Boogie (1975)
- Love & Understanding (1976)
- Open Sesame (1976)
- The Force (1977)
- Everybody's Dancin' (1978)
- Ladies' Night (1979)
- Celebrate! (1980)
- Something Special (1981)
- As One (1982)
- In the Heart (1983)
- Emergency (1984)
- Forever (1986)
- Sweat (1989)
- Unite (1992)
- State of Affairs (1996)
- Gangland (2001)
- The Hits: Reloaded (2004)
- Still Kool (2007)
- Kool for the Holidays (2013)
"Oh yes it's Ladies' Night, and I'm troping right!"
- Genre Mashup: Though largely known for their funk and disco hits, they also heavily incorporated jazz in some of their early output, most notably their instrumental hit "Summer Madness".
- Grand Finale: For the end of "Ladies' Night", the backbeat backs up one note (from C to B), and the singers repeatedly chant the same two lines for over two minutes.This is your night tonight
Everything's gonna be alright
- Revolving Door Band: While there was a fairly strong instrumental core to Kool & the Gang, it went through quite a few vocalists among their more famous tracks over the years.
- Sampling: Like James Brown and the P-Funk All-Stars, they're one of the most sampled funk bands in history, with "Summer Madness" making up the bulk of it, being sampled in 145 different songs (excluding remixes). The list of "Summer Madness" samples includes, but is not limited to:
- "Summertime", by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince.
- "A Girl Like You", by Aaliyah and Naughty By Nature.
- "You Know How We Do It", by Ice Cube.
- "Freak Like Me" by Adina Howard.
- "Summer 2020" by Jhene Akio.
- Stage Names: The Bell brothers both converted to Islam in 1973. Robert's converted name is Muhammad Bayyan, and Ronald's was Khalis Bayyan. They continued to perform using their birth names as stage names.