Ronald “Khalis” Bell, a co-founder, singer and producer of the group Kool & the Gang, has died. He was 68.
Bell died at his home in the U.S. Virgin Islands Wednesday morning with his wife by his side, publicist Sujata Murthy said. The cause of death has not been released.
Kool & the Gang grew from jazz roots in the 1960s to become one of the major groups of the 1970s, blending jazz, funk, R&B and pop. After a brief downturn, the group enjoyed a return to stardom in the ’80s.
Bell started the group with his brother Robert “Kool” Bell along with neighborhood friends Dennis “D.T.” Thomas, Robert “Spike” Mickens, Charles Smith, George Brown and Ricky West.
Kool & the Gang won a Grammy in 1978 for their work on the soundtrack for “Saturday Night Fever.” The group was honored with a BET Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014 and inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame four years later.
As a self-taught musician, Bell created his own signature sound using horn lines, bass and synthesizer.
Bell wrote and composed some of the group’s biggest songs including “Celebration,” “Cherish,” “Jungle Boogie” and “Summer Madness,” which was used in several films including “Rocky” and “Baby Boy.” The song was also used in a Nike shoe commercial in 2006 featuring LeBron James.
Bell was working on a series of collaborations including a solo endeavor, “Kool Baby Brotha Band.” He also had plans of putting together a series of animated shorts called “Kool TV” about their childhood and career.
Bell is also survived by 10 children.
Murthy said the service for Bell will be private.