Kool and The Gang co-founder Ronald ‘Khalis’ Bell dies

FILE - In this Feb. 12, 2017 file photo Dennis D.T. Thomas, from left, George Brown, Robert Bell, and Ronald Bell, of the musical group Kool & The Gang, arrive at the 59th annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center, in Los Angeles. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced Wednesday, June 5, 2019, that the group will receive the 2019 Marian Anderson Award this fall. The honor is named for the pioneering opera singer who was the first black singer to perform at the Metropolitan Opera. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

Kool & The Gang co-founder Ronald ‘Khalis’ Bell passed away on Wednesday aged 68.

Bell passed away on Wednesday at his home in the US Virgin Islands, a representative confirmed to Rolling Stone magazine.

A cause of death for the singer – who had 10 children – is yet to have been released, but Ronald’s wife was said to have been by his side.

Ronald formed the funk band with his brother Robert “Kool” Bell back in 1964, and they went on to have several hits which he co-wrote, including “Jungle Boogie” – which has been sampled on a number of other songs – “Celebration“, ”Ladies Night“ and ”Get Down On It“.

Despite his success, he remained modest.

Speaking in 2018, he said: “A lot of the songs, I may have spearheaded ’em.

“But it’s really, with a ‘K’, the [collective] genius of a band called Kool & the Gang.”

Unable to afford a drum kit during their younger years, the siblings used to collect old paint cans while growing up in Youngstown, Ohio, and worked out different sounds depending on how much paint was in each.

They eventually bought a cheap set of drums and moved to Jersey City, New Jersey, and they began to play outside New York’s Greenwich Village subway.

Ronald previously said: “We’d make about five dollars in three weeks.”

The band have dabbled in numerous genres over the years, from jazz right through to funk-soul, but Ronald once admitted: “You had a hard time trying to get us to play R&B. We were diehard jazz musicians. We’re not stooping to that.”

He became a huge fan of hip hop in the 80s, and could hear his music in the background of Public Enemy’s “Fear of a Black Planet”, as well as many other hip hop tunes.

Speaking in 2015, he said: “After Public Enemy, I was all in [with hip hop]. The music was all new to me. I sat and listened to ‘Fear of a Black Planet’ and was thrilled.

“I thought that was amazing. You can practically hear [drummer] George [Brown] playing that break beat. You can hear our music in the background. You know it was compound and compact, but you can hear Kool & the Gang music in all that hip hop.”

Kool & The Gang – who were awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame in 2015 – dropped their self-titled debut album in 1970 and have gone on to sell more than 70 million records worldwide.