Ronald Bell (musician)

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Ronald Bell
Bell in 2019
Bell in 2019
Background information
Birth nameRonald Nathan Bell
Also known asKhalis Bayyan
Born(1951-11-01)November 1, 1951
Youngstown, Ohio, U.S.
OriginWest Orange, New Jersey, U.S.
DiedSeptember 9, 2020(2020-09-09) (aged 68)
United States Virgin Islands
GenresClassical, jazz, funk, R&B
Occupation(s)Composer, singer, songwriter, arranger, producer
Instrument(s)Saxophone, vocals
Years active1964–2020

Ronald Nathan Bell (November 1, 1951 – September 9, 2020), also known as Khalis Bayyan,[1] was an American composer, singer, songwriter, arranger, producer, saxophonist and co-founding member of Kool & the Gang. The band recorded nine No. 1 R&B singles in the 1970s and 1980s, including its No. 1 pop single "Celebration".[2] The group is honored on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.[3]

Early life[edit]

Bell was born in Youngstown, Ohio,[4][5] to Aminah Bayyan (1932–2014) and Robert "Bobby" Bell (1929–1985). His father was a professional boxer and Golden Gloves amateur boxing winner.[6] Training in Elwood, New York, he hung out with jazz players and became friends with Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk,[7][8] who lived in the same apartment building as the elder Bell.[7][9]

Ronald Bell and his brother, Robert "Kool" Bell, were introduced to jazz at around five or six.[10] The family moved to Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1960. In 1964, the brothers joined neighborhood friends Spike Mickens, Dennis Thomas, Ricky Westfield, George Brown, and Charles Smith to create a distinctive musical blend of jazz, soul, and funk.[11] At first calling themselves "The Jazziacs", the band went through various name changes—the New Dimensions, the Soul Town Band, and Kool & the Flames—before settling on Kool & the Gang in 1968.[12]

Musical career[edit]

Ronald Bell composed, arranged, produced and performed some of the most popular music in Kool and the Gang's body of work.[13] He was a self-taught musician, and his distinctive sound is on the group's horn lines, bass, synthesizer and vocals. He wrote and produced many of the Kool & the Gang's songs, including "Celebration", "Cherish", "Jungle Boogie", "Summer Madness", and "Open Sesame".[14] He said his favorite song was "Celebration", which he wrote after reading a passage in the Quran.[15]

Personal life and death[edit]

Bell converted to Islam in 1972, joining The Nation of Islam. He was given the name Khalis Bayyan by Imam Warith Deen Mohammed.[16] He was married to Tia Sinclair Bell and had 10 children.[17] His son, Rachid, released his debut album in 1998.[18]

Bell died at his home in the United States Virgin Islands on September 9, 2020, at age 68.[19] No cause was given, but the death was described as sudden.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bush, John. Biography of Kool & the Gang at AllMusic. Retrieved April 25, 2012.
  2. ^ Freedman, Richard (February 21, 2019). "Bells haven't cracked after 52 years of 'Kool'". Vallejo Times Herald. Retrieved September 12, 2020.
  3. ^ Savage, Mark (September 10, 2020). "Ronald Bell: Kool & The Gang founder dies aged 68". Retrieved September 10, 2020.
  4. ^ Ronald Bell at AllMusic. Retrieved April 25, 2012.
  5. ^ Classical Music entry for Ronald Bell at AllMusic. Retrieved April 25, 2012.
  6. ^ "Bobby Bell - BoxRec". Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  7. ^ a b "Kool & the Gang headline CelebrateErie on Saturday". Erie Times-News. August 13, 2015. Retrieved September 10, 2020.
  8. ^ Norment, Lynn (November 1986). "Kool & The Gang: Hottest Group of the 80s". Ebony. Vol. 42, no. 1. pp. 70–76. ISSN 0012-9011. Retrieved September 10, 2020.
  9. ^ "Robert "Kool" Bell: The Current Q & A". San Antonio Current. June 20, 2012. Retrieved September 10, 2020.
  10. ^ Lynch, Joe (February 21, 2019). "Kool & the Gang Look Back on 50 Years of Funk". Billboard. Retrieved September 10, 2020.
  11. ^ "Kool & the Gang celebrate (good times, come on!) Hollywood Walk of Fame star". Los Angeles Daily News. October 8, 2015. Retrieved September 10, 2020.
  12. ^ Maile, Kelly (June 27, 2013). "Music Legends Kool and The Gang join Kid Rock tour, coming to Blossom Music Center". Record-Courier. Retrieved September 10, 2020.
  13. ^ McFaul, Lauren. "Kool's gang freshens rock with funk", The Spokesman-Review, June 3, 1985. Retrieved October 25, 2015. "Ronald Bell has a studio in his West Orange, N.J., home and from there has worked on production for Kool & the Gang's last six albums."
  14. ^ "RONALD "KHALIS" BELL". SAG-AFTRA Foundation. Retrieved September 10, 2020.
  15. ^ Aidi, Hisham (December 9, 2014). "Did Coltrane say 'Allah Supreme'?". Al Jazeera. Retrieved February 20, 2019.
  16. ^ "J.T. TAYLOR – KOOL & THE GANG". Retrieved February 20, 2019. Ronald Five X is given the name Khalis (intelligent) by Imam Wallace D. Mohammed
  17. ^ Alexander, Bryan (September 9, 2020). "Ronald 'Khalis' Bell, Kool & the Gang co-founder and 'Celebration' songwriter, dies at 68". USA Today. McLean, Virginia: Ganett Company. Retrieved September 10, 2020.
  18. ^ Ratliff, Ben (December 14, 1998). "Not One More for the Road". The New York Times. Retrieved September 10, 2020.
  19. ^ Parker, Lyndsey (September 9, 2020). "Kool & the Gang co-founder Ronald 'Khalis' Bell dead at 68". Yahoo! News. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  20. ^ "Ronald 'Khalis' Bell, Kool & the Gang Co-Founder, Dies at 68". September 9, 2020. Retrieved September 9, 2020.

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