Very sad news: Kool & the Gang co-founder Ronald “Khalis” Bell -- who wrote and produced "Celebration," "Cherish," "Jungle Boogie," "Ladies Night," and other hits for the funk/disco/soul/etc group -- has passed away at age 68. Variety reports:

Kool & the Gang co-founder Ronald “Khalis” Bell, who was credited as a writer and producer on the group’s biggest hits — among them: 1980’s “Celebration” and 1985’s “Cherish” — died Wednesday Sept. 9 at his home in the U.S. Virgin Islands, his wife and agent Tia Sinclair Bell said in a statement on Sept. 10. He was 68. The cause of death has not been revealed.

Bell was a driving force behind Kool & the Gang, composing, arranging, producing and performing with the group which saw success in multiple decades over 50 years. In addition to the aforementioned earworms of our time, other hits by the band included “Get Down On It,” “Joanna” and “Fresh.”

In 1964, Bell and his brother Robert “Kool” formed a band with Dennis “D.T.” Thomas, Robert “Spike” Mickens, Charles Smith, George Brown, and Ricky West. They went through several iterations as the Jazziacs, The New Dimensions, The Soul Town Band, Kool & the Flames before Kool & the Gang was launched blending jazz, soul and funk sounds.

Kool & the Gang performed continuously longer than any R&B group in history. The band, who won two Grammy Awards, also appeared alongside Kid Rock, Dave Matthews Band, Elton John and The Roots, and performed on a 50-city tour with rock legends Van Halen.

Read more here.

Questlove was among those to pay tribute, writing:

Man. This hurts. I mean everything hurts but to lose Khalis Bayyan (fka Ronald Bell—brother of Robert Kool) his brother Kool May have been the band’s anchor & muscle but I consider KB to be the heart of this powerhouse unit. The stories he told me—-were so mind blowing. They were the original music metamorphosis mob: to come in the game as jazz snobs, & accidentally conduct the train of funk (making fun of “Soul Makossa” paid off in “Jungle Boogie”) then to bring new life to disco w those complex jazz arrangements in “Open Sesame”—-& the risk it all like a mofo & go pop the right way (the “Celebration” story is one for the record books) by bringing James “JT” Taylor to the front was always what the doctor ordered (they caught some flack.....but I understood & it worked) only to go full circle & have hip hop embrace it from the gate and REINTRODUCE the first two stages under a new filter to a new generation. If you love the sound of (1988-2000) era hip hop was your bag then you too will be effected by this loss. Condolences to the entire @koolandthegang family & loved ones. Rest in Beats brother.

Rest in peace, Ronald.

Watch some classic Kool & the Gang videos below...

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