Robert “Kool” Bell has been writing, recording and playing music with his iconic band for more than 50 years. His band, Kool and The Gang has stood the test of time, and Bell has spent half a century writing and recording worldwide hits.
Born in Youngstown, Ohio on October 8, 1950, Bell’s instrument of choice quickly became the guitar, although he would later become well-known for playing the bass. Music was a part of Bell and his brother Ronald’s life early on. He has previously stated the duo would use upside down paint cans to create drums and create music around their home.
After the family relocated to Jersey City, New Jersey in the 1960s, the Bell duo began playing music with neighborhood friends. In 1964, at just 14-years old, Bell began playing gigs around Greenwich Village in New York City. At the time, Bell was playing guitar in the band. However, a chance find during a gig led Bell to the bass. After picking it up and playing a few bass lines, his future as a bassist was set.
Bell’s band continued to play under various names with a few revolving musicians until the group settled on the name Kool and the Gang. The “Kool” part of the name came from Bell’s nickname and it wasn’t long before the band was selling out venues around New York City. Bell and his bandmates adopted the Kool and the Gang moniker in 1968. At the time Bell was just 18-years-old, but his ability to play and create music made him seem years older than he truly was.
The band’s first album, the self-titled “Kool and The Gang”, arrived in 1969. But it would be a few years before the group was known outside of the northeastern United States.
Since then, the group has released 23 more studio albums. There most successful was the 1984 record “Emergency”, which was award double platinum status in the US. The album had four songs in the US top 20 charts. Along with its catalogue of studio albums, Kool and The Gang have also released 21 live and compilation records.
The band’s incredible music catalogue features a number of chart topping hits. Each is instantaneously memorable and have set plenty of dancefloors alight. Bell wrote, recorded and played on hits such as “Hollywood Swinging”, “Jungle Boogie”, “Ladies Night”, and “Celebration”. The band has sold more than 70 million records during its time together.
Bell and his bandmates haven’t just sold a large number of records. The group has defied trends and remained a top act. It has also won countless awards and Kool and The Gang have seen its songs used on the silver screen in films such as Saturday Night Fever and Pulp Fiction.
The band is still considered one of the greatest R&B/funk bands of all-time.
Image credit: Silvia-Mautner