George Brown, co-founding member and drummer of Kool & the Gang, dead at 74
The news was confirmed to CNN via email from Kool & the Gang’s publicist Jerry Digney. Brown died in Los Angeles after a battle with cancer, according to Digney.
At first calling themselves the Jazziacs in 1964, Brown – along with Ricky Westfield, Ronald Bell and his brother Robert “Kool” Bell, and neighborhood friends Spike Mickens, Dennis Thomas and Charles Smith – began making music together that melded jazz, soul and funk.
After taking on various other monikers, including The New Dimensions, The Soul Town Band and Kool & the Flames, they landed on Kool & The Gang, officially launching in 1969.
Brown co-wrote many of the band’s iconic songs, including “Ladies Night” – off their 1979 album of the same name – as well as “Too Hot,“ “Jungle Boogie,” “Summer Madness,” “Open Sesame,” “Celebration” and “Cherish.”
The band was nominated for three Grammy Awards, winning one in 1979 for the soundtrack album for “Saturday Night Fever.” They also won seven American Music Awards, a BET Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award, induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame..
Brown’s signature drumming on the early Kool & The Gang recordings has been heavily sampled in the years since by artists such as Beastie Boys, Jay-Z, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Cypress Hill and The Killers, to name a few.
Until he retired in August of this year, Brown toured with Kool & the Gang as part of one of the longest-running R&B groups in history.
Brown also released his memoir this year, entitled “Too Hot: Kool & The Gang And Me.”
When asked to describe his music, the artist always replied that it was “the sound of happiness,” according to his publicist’s message this week.
Brown is survived by his wife Hanh Brown and five sons.
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