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Singer and Co-Founder of Kool & the Gang Ronald ‘Khalis’ Bell Dead at 68

Co-founder and singer of Kool & the Gang Ronald “Khalis” Bell passed away Wednesday, Sept. 9, according to a report from Variety. He was 68. 

Bell, who was credited as a writer and producer on some of the group’s biggest hits, including the ’80s single “Celebration,” died at his home in the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to a statement released by his wife and agent Tia Sinclair Bell. The cause of death has not yet been revealed, but a statement from Universal Music said that the musician “passed away suddenly.”

Kool & The Gang’s co-founder Ronald ‘Khalis’ Bell died Sept. 9 at age 68. (photo source: Ronald Bell’s Instagram Account)

Bell formed Kool & the Gang in 1964 along with his brother Robert “Kool” Bell and their neighborhood friends Spike Mickens, Dennis Thomas, Ricky Westfield, George Brown and Charles Smith. The group went through several name changes, including the New Dimensions and the Soul Town Band, before landing on Kool & the Gang.

Aside from writing and producing, Bell was also recognized for his ability to develop new acts, including ’90s hip-hop group The Fugees. The group was known as Tranzlator Crew when it worked with Bell on its debut album “Blunted On Reality.”

According to Variety, Kool & the Gang performed continuously longer than any other R&B group in history. In recent years, the Grammy Award-winning band appeared alongside Kid Rock, Dave Matthews Band, Elton John, and The Roots and performed on a 50-city tour with rock icons Van Halen. Kool & the Gang’s music is featured on the soundtracks to “Rocky,” “Saturday Night Fever” and “Pulp Fiction.” “Celebration” is regarded among the most popular wedding songs of all times. 

In 2014, the group was honored with a BET Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award. The following year, they were given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2016, they released new music and, two years later, were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. 

At the time of his death, Bell was still very active, musically. He was said to have been in the midst of a series of collaborations, including his solo endeavor, “Kool Baby Brotha Band.” He was also working “Kool TV,” a series of animated shorts about the group’s career. 

Bell is survived by his wife Tia Sinclair Bell and 10 children: Kahdijah, Rasheed, Nadirah, Liza, Maryam, Aminah, Jennah, Khalis, Asia and James. Other survivors include grandchildren and siblings — brothers Robert “Kool” Bell, Wahid Bayyan and Amir Bayyan and sister Sharifah Bayyan.

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