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George Brown, Co-Founder of Kool & the Gang, Passes Away at 74


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George Brown, who because the drummer of the group Kool & the Gang performed on funk, disco, and pop hits that featured prominently in motion pictures and have been sampled quite a few instances, died on Thursday in Long Beach, Calif. He was 74.

His loss of life, at a hospital, was confirmed in a press release by the band’s publicist, who stated the trigger was most cancers. Mr. Brown had stated publicly that he had lung most cancers.

Mr. Brown, generally known as Funky, was a founding member of Kool & the Gang and a key contributor to a number of of the band’s largest hits, together with “Ladies Night,” “Jungle Boogie” and the social gathering anthem “Celebration.”

In a July interview with NPR, he described Kool & the Gang as “the sound of happiness.”

In 1964, Mr. Brown linked up with Ricky Westfield and the brothers Ronald Khalis Bell and Robert “Kool” Bell, in addition to different associates — Spike Mickens, Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas and Charles Smith — to kind what was initially a jazz band however would go on to mix jazz, funk, disco and R&B, and to create among the most memorable pop songs of its period.

The band, fashioned in Jersey City, N.J., whereas its members have been attending Lincoln High School, carried out underneath a number of names, together with the Jazziacs, earlier than deciding on Kool & the Gang within the late Nineteen Sixties. (One of these early names was Kool and the Flames, however the group modified “Flames” to “Gang” to keep away from confusion with James Brown’s group, the Famous Flames.)

George Melvin Brown was born on Jan. 15, 1949, in Jersey City. His father, George Sr., labored within the coal trade; his mom, Eleanor White Brown, was a maid in Fort Lee, N.J., and in addition labored as a key puncher.

Both made music a continuing a part of Mr. Brown’s upbringing, he recalled in a memoir revealed this 12 months, “Too Hot: Kool & the Gang & Me.”

Mr. Brown, who took to drumming at a younger age, wrote that he saved up from a newspaper supply route to purchase his first drum set.

In a 2015 interview with Red Bull Music Academy, Mr. Brown recalled utilizing butter knives as drumsticks when he first began enjoying.

“Then I went down to a music store on Newark Avenue in Jersey City and took a $3 lesson from a gentleman who used to play with the Shirelles. He said, ‘Hey man, you’re a natural!’” Mr. Brown stated. “So he gave me ‘Buddy Rich’s 16 Essential Snare Drum Rudiments’ book. I took one more lesson and never went back.”

The band was signed by the producer Gene Redd to De-Lite Records in 1969.

At an early recording session in New York for his or her instrumental debut album, known as merely “Kool and the Gang,” Mr. Redd inspired Mr. Brown and Ronald Bell: “Say something! Sing something!” That led to a freewheeling session that produced memorable songs like “Raw Hamburger.”

“It just flowed,” Mr. Brown advised The New York Times in an interview final 12 months. “And we’re just grooving.”

The sound carried over into the Nineteen Seventies because the band discovered fame. Its fame grew after the vocalist, J.T. Taylor joined in 1979.

Songs like “Jungle Boogie,” “Hollywood Swinging,” and “Funky Stuff” grew to become Billboard chart staples. In 1981, “Celebration” — with its cheery refrain “Celebrate good times, come on!” — made all of it the way in which to the highest.

The group would go on to launch dozens of albums, tour worldwide and seem on the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack, which received the Grammy Award for album of the 12 months in 1979.

The group’s songs have continuously appeared on the soundtracks of movies and tv exhibits, together with “Pulp Fiction” in 1994.

In 2015, the band was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Mr. Brown was a producer of the newest Kool & the Gang album, “People Just Wanna Have Fun,” launched this 12 months in anticipation of the group’s sixtieth anniversary.

Kool & the Gang had a broad affect, significantly in hip-hop.

According to the web site WhoSampled, the band has been sampled in nearly 2,000 songs, among the many highest totals of all time. The band’s music “Summer Madness” accounts for 249 samples, by artists together with Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, and Mary J. Blige.

Ronald Khalis Bell, a singer, songwriter, and saxophonist for the band, died in 2020. Mr. Thomas, who additionally performed saxophone, died in 2021.

Mr. Brown is survived by his spouse, Hanh Brown, and 5 kids: Dorian Melvin Brown, Jorge Lewis Brown, Gregory Brown, Jordan Xuan Clarence Brown, and Aaron Tien Joseph Brown.

Three years in the past, Mr. Brown was identified with lung most cancers, in response to an interview with the Los Angeles tv station KCAL. After surgical procedure and chemotherapy, he recovered and returned to touring in 2022. But this 12 months, the most cancers returned.

“I didn’t plan on being in a band known around the world, but I welcomed it when it came,” Mr. Brown wrote in his memoir. “I didn’t know where the music would lead me, but I knew that if I remained focused and persevered, it would happen as God had intended. And it did.”


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