Many funk groups made the transition into disco, pop and R&B, but few have done it as successfully as Kool and the Gang. In the mid 1960’s, when Jersey City native Robert “Kool” Bell formed the group along with his brother Ronald, they originally started out as a jazz band, hence one of their many names in the beginning, The Jazziacs.
In 1969 the band’s first album, Kool and the Gang hit the charts with the single of the same name and later with their third single “Let the Music Take Your Mind.” After releasing two more albums the band began their run on the charts with the 1973 release Wild and Peaceful, which contained the singles “Jungle Boogie” and “Hollywood Swinging.” Singles that followed are probably considered the most memorable to Kool and the Gang’s major commercial fan base. With the addition of a new lead singer, James “J.T.” Taylor in 1979, the band produced a string of r&b and pop hits. Who doesn’t remember songs like “Ladies Night,” “Too Hot,” “Get Down On It,” “Joanna,” “Fresh” and their hit “Celebration” which made it to number one on the Hot 100, R&B and Dance charts.
Hip hop artists have definitely embraced Kool and the Gang, with hundreds of artists sampling their songs. Among them, DJ Kool who sampled “Hollywood Swinging” on “Let Me Clear My Throat.” The film industry has also been quite fond of the music of Kool and the Gang. The song “Open Sesame” was featured on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, Quentin Tarantino used “Jungle Boogie” to kick off one of the scenes of his movie “Pulp Fiction” and even The Italian Stallion (Sylvester Stallone’s nickname in the movie Rocky) chilled out after a fight to the band’s instrumental classic “Summer Madness.”
– Montrose Cunningham
* * * * Montrose Cunningham is an independent funk/rock/soul artist and devoted music aficionado residing in Dallas, Texas. When he isn’t digging through the crates–digital and analog–he’s jamming with his band or hanging with his daughter; sometimes both at the same time. Visit him online at www.MontroseMusic.comand on Facebook.