Ronald “Khalis” Bell, a co-founding member of Kool & the Gang, has passed away at age 68.
On Thursday, Bell’s rep confirmed to multiple outlets that the musician died Wednesday at his U.S. Virgin Islands home. A cause of death was not provided.
In 1964, Bell and his brother Robert “Kool” Bell formed the now-legendary funk band in Jersey City, New Jersey, alongside neighborhood friends Dennis “D.T.” Thomas, Charles Smith, George Brown, Robert “Spike” Mickens, and Ricky West.
In 1973, the group had their commercial breakthrough with the release of their fourth studio album, “Wild and Peaceful.”
The album, which has since been certified Gold, spawned hit singles such as “Funky Stuff” and “Jungle Boogie.”
Bell would go on to co-write many of the band’s hit songs, including “Ladies’ Night,” “Cherish,” and “Celebration.”
In 2015, Bell told Rolling Stone the inspiration behind “Celebration,” released in 1980.
“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,” he told the magazine.
“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.”
Bell also told Reuters in 2008 that the megahit was his “favorite song” from the group’s catalog.
“I had no clue, you know,” he said of the song’s success. “I was clueless, thinking that that was going to be a hit. I had no idea.”
“But after all these years, there are times at the end of the show when I see all of these people singing a song, and after all of an hour and a half, you ask them to jump up and down and they still jump up and down. That’s kind of overwhelming for me.”
In 2015, Kool & the Gang received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in 2018, they were inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.
In addition to winning two Grammy Awards and seven American Music Awards, the band has sold more than 70 million albums.
According to Variety, Bell had been working on a solo project called Kool Baby Brotha Band, as well as animated shorts about the group called “Kool TV.”
He is survived by his wife, Tia Sinclair Bell; his 10 children; grandchildren; brothers Robert, Wahid Bayyan and Amir Bayyan, and sister Sharifah Bayyan.
Ronald will be missed.