Gang's Still Kool after All These Years

By Saval, Malina | Variety, October 6, 2015 | Go to article overview

Gang's Still Kool after All These Years


Saval, Malina, Variety


After 50 years and 23 albums, the legacy of Kool & the Gang has become so much a part of our national fabric it's hard to remember a time when their music wasn't a perpetual party anthem source, blasted at bar mitzvahs and weddings and high school graduations. In 1981, the band's dance-floor juggernaut "Celebration" took on monumental historical value when it was played as the American hostages returned home from Iran. Even today there are kids who may not know who Kool & the Gang is, but they know their songs, a hefty catalog of funk-jazz-R&Bpop fusions like "Ladies' Night," "Jungle Boogie" and "Get Down on It" that remain evergreen favorites at life-cycle events and other happy occasions.

Formed in 1964 in Jersey City, N.J., by then-teenage brothers Robert "Kool" Bell and Ronald "Khalis" Bell and neighborhood buddies Robert "Spike" Mickens, Dennis "D.T." Thomas, Ricky West, George Brown and Charles Smith, the group is scheduled to receive its star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Oct. 8. Morphing over the years, they were first the Jazziacs, then the New Dimensions and then Kool & the Flames (which hewed too close to James Brown and the Famous Flames) before finally settling on their current name.

Since its debut release, 1969's eponymous "Kool & the Gang," the two-time Grammy-winning group has sold over 70 million records worldwide.

But no one was more taken aback by the massive popularity of its trademark hits than the band members themselves.

"I had no idea that 'Celebration' would turn out to be as popular as it is," says tenor saxophonist Ronald "Khalis" Bell. "When we were writing it, I was inspired by a Scripture reading in which the creator is creating this human being and (the human beings) are praising Him for doing that, so that's where the original inspiration came for that. You know, 'Everyone around the world come on....' Everyone has a reason to celebrate something."

But like all collaborative efforts in pop music history, there were myriad influences in all of Kool's songs (the ballad "Joanna," off 1983's "In the Heart," was based on Smith's mother; "Ladies Night" was inspired by Studio 54).

" 'Celebration' came from the American Music Awards," says Brown, the group's percussionist. "We had won the American Music Award - we had won a couple of them that evening - and it was sort of a celebration because it was a great night for us. We were on a tour bus and we started to come up with the idea for the song. It wasn't contrived for weddings and bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs. We were just coming home and it was just something we felt we wanted to do."

Along with a collective passion for "music from the heart," what's kept the band going these past five decades is its ability to adapt to the ever-changing ebb and flow of the music industry. Certain members of the band have come and gone, but the group as a whole always remained intact, experimenting with an artistic open-mindedness. Whether sharing a stage with Richie Havens or Ray Charles or Sammy Davis Jr. or Van Halen - with whom Kool & the Gang toured in 2012 - the group has reinvented itself many times over. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Gang's Still Kool after All These Years
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.