Ronald “Khalis” Bell, co-founder and vocalist of influential R&B act Kool & the Gang, has passed away. He was 68.
The musician died at his home in the US Virgin Islands on Wednesday morning with his wife by his side, publicist Sujata Murthy confirmed. No cause of death has been revealed.
Khalis, alongside his brother Robert “Kool” Bell, formed Kool & the Gang in 1964. Together the group produced a slew of beloved hits like ‘Get Down On It’, ‘Celebration’, ‘Summer Madness’, ‘Jungle Boogie’, ‘Cherish’, and many more.
With a career spanning over five decades, the group released over twenty records together. Beginning with their self-titled debut in 1970 — a record that laid the roots for their inimitable blend of Jazz and Funk.
“You had a hard time trying to get us to play R&B,” Ronald told Rolling Stone. “We were diehard jazz musicians. We’re not stooping to that. We didn’t really try to do that until now.
In 2018, the two Bell brothers were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Their music spans all corners of the entertainment world. Featuring in cult-classic films like Rocky, Saturday Night Fever and Pulp Fiction.
In addition to his work producing and writing for Kool & The Gang, Bell helped in developing the next generation of musicians. Notably, The Fugees, who were known at the time as Tranzlator Crew. Bell helped the budding act producer their debut record, 1994’s Blunted On Reality.
Bell continued to create until the end of his life. Before his death, he was working on a number of collaborations, including his solo project Kool Baby Brother Band. He was also tapping away at Kool TV — a series of shorts chronicling the legacy of the Kool & The Gang career.
Bell is survived by 10 children, Kahdijah, Rasheed, Nadirah, Liza, Maryam, Aminah, Jennah, Khalis, Asia and James, brothers Robert “Kool” Bell, Wahid Bayyan, Amir Bayyan, sister Sharifah Bayyan, and wife Tia Sinclair Bell.