Kool & the Gang Co-Founder Ronald 'Khalis' Bell Dies at 68

Ronald Bell
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Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Kool & The Gang co-founder, singer and saxophonist, Ronald "Khalis" Bell, has died at 68. 

Bell passed away at his home in the U.S. Virgin Islands Wednesday (Sept. 9) morning with his wife by his side, according to publicist Sujata Murthy. The cause of death has not been disclosed.

In 1964, Bell and his brother Robert “Kool” Bell were unable to afford drums and instead, collected old paint cans in their neighborhood in Youngstown, Ohio to use them as provisional percussion instruments. Bell would found the band in that same neighborhood alongside his friends Dennie "D.T." Thomas, Robert "Spike" Mickens, Charles Smith, George Brown and Ricky West. The group originally began as a jazz group in 1964 before it shifted towards R&B, funk and disco. 

A self-taught musician, Bell wrote and composed some of the group’s biggest hits, including “Celebration,” “Cherish,” “Jungle Boogie” and “Summer Madness,” which was featured in films like Rocky and Baby Boy. 

They supported Van Halen on tour in 2012 and released their most recent album, their 24th, the following year.

Kool & the Gang won a Grammy in 1978 for their work on the soundtrack for “Saturday Night Fever.” The group was also honored with a BET Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014 and inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame four years later.

Bell is survived by his wife, Tia, and their 10 children. 

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