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On this day in 1950, Robert 'Kool' Bell was born in Youngstown, Ohio. With his brother Ronald, Bell formed the '70s soul/funk act Kool & The Gang, which had huge hits with songs such as 'Hollywood Swinging' and 'Celebration.'
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The Bell brothers grew up in Jersey City, N.J., and began playing jazz, the music loved by their father, a friend of legendary jazz pianist Thelonious Monk. With Robert on bass and Ronald on horns, the brothers formed the Jazziacs in 1964 (which included such future Kool & the Gang members as Dennis 'Dee Tee' Thomas on alto sax, Robert 'Spike' Mickens on trumpet, Rickey Westfield on keyboards and George 'Funky' Brown on drums).
The band began to play soul music in New York City clubs, going through a series of names -- including the Soul Town Review, the New Dimensions and Kool and the Flames -- before settling on Kool & the Gang in 1968.
Signing with De-Lite Records, Kool and the Gang had minor hits with such tracks as 'Love the Life You Live' and 'Funky Man.' The band issued two early-'70s concert albums, Live at the Sex Machine (1971) and Live at P.J.'s (1972), the latter including such unlikely covers as Glen Campbell's country hit 'Wichita Lineman.'
Kool and the Gang hit it big with their sixth album, 1973's Wild and Peaceful , which spawned three hits: 'Funky Stuff' and Top-10 smashes 'Jungle Boogie' and 'Hollywood Swinging.' But relatively lean years followed for Kool & the Gang, as the ascent of disco eclipsed their instrumentalist-based ensemble music. Ironically, the soundtrack to the disco film 'Saturday Night Fever' won Kool and the Gang a Grammy for their contribution, 'Open Sesame.'
Things changed for the better in 1979, when singers James 'J.T.' Taylor and Earl Toon Jr., joined and Kool and the Gang collaborated with jazz fusion arranger Eumir Deodato. Three consecutive platinum albums followed. Ladies Night (1979) yielded the Top-10 title track and 'Too Hot.' Celebrate! (1980) produced the band's only #1 pop hit, the still-popular, special-occasion anthem 'Celebration.' Something Special (1981) spawned the hit 'Get Down on It.'
Without the help of Deodato, Kool and the Gang scored with the mammoth hits 'Joanna' (1984) and 'Cherish' (1985). The latter song and the top-10 hits 'Misled' and 'Fresh' were all featured on 1984's platinum-selling Emergency .
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Kool and the Gang's last big album was 1986's Forever , with the hits 'Victory' and 'Stone Love.' After Taylor left to go solo, Kool and the Gang issued several LPs that mostly flopped. Taylor returned in 1995 and Kool and the Gang released State of Affairs (1996).
Following a number of compilation albums, the band issued Greatest Hits Live earlier this year. Whatever their future, Kool and the Gang will be mostly remembered as an incredibly tight group of R&B/funksters who loved to improvise.
Other birthdays: Doc Green (Drifters), 64; Ray Royer (Procol Harum), 53; Tony Wilson (Hot Chocolate), 51; Sir Harry Bowens (Was Not Was), 49; Hamish Stuart (Average White Band), 49; and Johnny Ramone (Ramones), 47.