Ronald “Khalis” Bell, a founding member of Kool & the Gang and a driving force behind many of the band’s greatest hits, has died. He was 68.
Bell died suddenly on Wednesday at his home in the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to his label publicist. A cause of death has not yet been announced.
A self-taught musician who specialized in the saxophone, Bell formed the group that would become Kool & the Gang with his brother Robert “Kool” Bell in 1964, along with Dennis “D.T.” Thomas, Robert “Spike” Mickens, Charles Smith, George Brown, and Ricky West. After several years and various names (including the Jazziacs, The New Dimensions, and Kool & the Flames), the group had a breakthrough in 1973 with their fourth studio album, Wild and Peaceful, which featured the top 10 singles “Jungle Boogie” and “Hollywood Swinging.”
Spanning various genres including jazz, funk, and disco, the band saw further success in the late ’70s and early ’80s with a string of hits including “Ladies’ Night,” “Get Down on It,” and the iconic No. 1 single “Celebration,” all of which featured Bell as a co-writer, arranger, and producer. The band has continued actively performing and touring in recent years and has received numerous accolades including two Grammy Awards.
Bell also produced the Fugees’ debut album, Blunted on Reality, released in 1994. In 2018, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, along with his brother, Brown, and Kool & the Gang singer James “J.T.” Taylor.