Robert "Kool" Bell and Kool & the Gang
2009 Unity Award Honorees
Kool & the Gang has sold over 70 million albums worldwide and influenced the music of three generations. Thanks to songs like Celebration, Cherish, Jungle Boogie, Summer Madness and Open Sesame, they've earned two Grammy Awards, seven American Music Awards, 25 Top Ten R&B hits, nine Top Ten Pop hits, and 31 gold and platinum albums. Kool & The Gang has performed continuously for the past 35 years, longer than any R&B group in history. Their bulletproof funk and tough, jazzy arrangements have also made them the most sampled band of all time.
In 1964 Khalis Bayyan (AKA Ronald Bell) and his brother, Robert “Kool” Bell, joined Jersey City neighborhood friends Robert “Spike” Mickens, Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas, Ricky Westfield, George Brown and Charles Smith to create a unique musical blend of jazz, soul and funk. Their self-titled 1969 debut album introduced their signature instrumental sound and fierce horn arrangements, and spawned their first Billboard R&B charted single, Kool and the Gang.
In 1970, their sophomore set Live At The Sex Machine peaked at #6 on Billboard's R&B chart and yielded three hit singles: Funky Man, Who's Gonna Take The Weight and I Want To Take You Higher. Next came The Best of Kool & the Gang Featuring The Penguin, Kool & the Gang Live at PJ's, Music Is The Message and Good Times.
The band's stellar reputation grew with each album, but 1973's gold disc Wild & Peaceful took Kool & the Gang to another level (#6 R&B, #33 Pop). Hits like Higher Plane (#1 R&B), the classic Summer Madness (featured on the Grammy-winning movie soundtrack Rocky) and LPs Spirit of the Boogie, Love & Understanding and Open Sesame followed. The latter's title track was featured on the top-selling movie soundtrack of all time, Saturday Night Fever, earning the group their second Grammy.
In 1979, Kool & the Gang unveiled a smooth new sound with Ladies Night. Produced by legendary Eumir Deodato, it became their first platinum album. The #1 R&B title track also reached #8 at Pop. The '80s welcomed the double platinum-selling album Celebrate (driven by the hit Celebration, which spent six weeks atop the R&B chart and became a #1 Pop single).
Kool & the Gang continues to perform to packed audiences around the world. The band re-entered the Billboard R&B chart with 2006's Steppin' Into Love.