Ronald ‘Khalis’ Bell, Kool & the Gang Co-Founder, Dies at 68

Bell died on Wednesday morning at his home in the U.S. Virgin Islands with his wife by his side

Ronald “Khalis” Bell —  co-founder, singer, and songwriter of the R&B/soul group Kool & the Gang — passed away on Wednesday. He was 68.

Bell died at his home in the U.S. Virgin Islands with his wife by his side, publicist Sujata Murthy told the Associated Press. No cause of death was given.

In 1964, Bell formed the Kool & the Gang band along with his brother Robert “Kool” Bell in Jersey City, New Jersey.  Dennis “D.T.” Thomas, Robert “Spike” Mickens, Charles Smith, George Brown and Ricky West rounded out the rest of the band.

Kool & the Gang released its debut album six years later and went on to become one of the biggest bands of the 70s era, producing smash hits like “Jungle Boogie” and “Hollywood Swingin’.”

Kool & the Gang would go to win a Grammy for their work on the soundtrack to 1978’s “Saturday Night Fever” which featured the group’s song “Open Sesame” as one of the tracks. In the 1980’s, Kool & the Gang would experience a commercial peak with the addition of lead vocalist J.T. Taylor and released hits like “Ladies Night” and “Celebration.”

1984’s “Emergency” became the band’s highest-selling album, which sold two million copies and produced four U.S. Top 20 singles, including “Emergency,” “Cherish,” “Fresh,” and “Misled.”

A self-taught musician, Bell wrote and composed some of the band’s biggest hits, including “Celebration,” “Cherish,” “Jungle Boogie” and “Summer Madness.”

Kool & the Gang received a BET Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014 and were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018.

Bell is survived by his 10 children.