On Wednesday, September 9, 2020, Ronald "Khalis" Bell, beloved husband, father and renowned recording artist, passed away at the age of 68.
Khalis was born on November 1, 1951 in Youngstown, Ohio to Mabel Butler and Robert Earl Bell. He was married to his wife Tia Sinclair Bell for 26 years with whom he had one son; and previously to Nasim Bell, with whom he had three children; and Yacine Bell, with whom he had four children.
One of the co-founders of Kool & the Gang, he was a driving force behind one of the most successful bands of the last fifty years, composing, arranging, producing and performing some of the most popular music of our time. In 1964, a young Ronald Bell and his brother Robert “Kool” Bell, along with friends Spike Mickens, Dennis Thomas, Ricky Westfield, George Brown, and Charles Smith, created a unique musical blend of jazz, soul and funk. At first calling themselves the Jazziacs, the band went through various name changes before settling on their famous moniker. Kool & the Gang officially launched in 1969 and are now true funk, soul, R&B and pop legends.
A self-taught musician, Khalis’ signature sound can be heard on the band's unforgettable horn lines, bass, synthesizer and vocals. He wrote and produced many of the band's iconic songs, including “Celebration,” “Cherish,” “Jungle Boogie,” “Summer Madness” and “Open Sesame.” To date, the band has earned two GRAMMY® Awards, seven American Music Awards, 25 Top Ten R&B hits, nine Top Ten Pop hits and 31 gold and platinum albums. In addition, their bulletproof funk and jazzy arrangements made them the most sampled band of all time. Kool & the Gang’s music was also featured on the soundtracks of countless films including the classics Rocky, Saturday Night Fever and Pulp Fiction. From Nairobi to New York, Kool & the Gang performed continuously, longer than any R&B group in history.
In addition to keeping pace with the road, Khalis devoted much of his life to song writing and producing for the band as well as developing new acts. In 2014, the band was honored with a Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award; in October 2015 they were honored to take their place as American musical icons with a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame; and in 2018, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. They are also included in installations at both the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. and the Grammy Museum in Newark, NJ. Recently, Khalis was working on a series of collaborations including his solo endeavor, “Kool Baby Brotha Band", as well as “Kool TV,” a series of animated shorts about the band's childhood and career.
A master of his craft, Khalis is known and remembered for his love of Islam, the Seattle Seahawks, jazz and popular music history, and John Coltrane. He loved spending time in his studio, the sound of his music almost always attracting birds to his window. He cherished his daily conversations about music, Islam and current events with his brothers Kool, Wahid and Amir, cousin Adil, Cleveland Uhuru-Sasa Brown and Rashad Muhammad. A doting father to his children, Khalis made frequent phone calls of advice and love to them throughout their lives. Despite having travelled to every corner of the earth, the highlights of his life were making the Hajj pilgrimage and, earlier this year, Umrah with his daughter Aminah.
He is predeceased by his mother Aminah Bayyan (Mabel Butler), father Robert Earl Bell and his brother Michael Bell.
He is survived by his wife Tia Sinclair Bell; two sons, Rachid Bell and Khalis Bell; one stepson, James Robinson and daughter-in-law, Chelsea; six daughters, Kahdijah Bell-Taylor, Nadirah Bell, Liza Milagro, Maryam Bell, Aminah Bell-Colquhoun and son-in-law Matthew, and Jennah Bell; one stepdaughter, Asia Robinson; three grandchildren, Emma, Kaiya and Ofe; brothers Robert “Kool” Bell, Wahid Bayyan and Amir Bayyan; sister Sharifah Bayyan; his band brothers, Dennis Thomas and George Brown; aunts Mary Ellen Jackson and Carol Bell; his beloved cousins Adil Bayyan and Royal Bayyan; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
In lieu of flowers, the family ask that donations be made to the Boys and Girls Club of America.
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