Funk is a genre that was born in the 60’s, created from a fusion of jazz, R&B, and soul music. Funk focused on the rhythm, and lyrics were typically about partying and having a good time. Kool and the Gang is one of the most popular artists from the genre with several hits from the era of funk that many still listen to today.
Kool and the Gang was formed in 1964 in Jersey City, two of the members being brothers, Ronald and Robert “Kool” Bell, and the rest being neighborhood friends, Dennis ” Dee Tee” Thomas, George Brown, Ricky Westfield, Robert “Spike” Mickens and Charles Smith. The band went through numerous names before landing on Kool and the Gang.
Their first charted song was self-titled “Kool and the Gang” off their self-titled album that stapled their signature funky sound. The most popular sound of funk is a signifying bass in the background; however, Kool and the Gang was known for their dynamic horn arrangements.
The bands popularity increased with each album they released. Their second album was number 6 on Billboard, and their third album spawned several singles that are certified party/cookout anthems. By the end of their second album, they had scored two Grammys. Funk could be seen, in their bright clothes and afros, and heard in the party, have-a-good time lyrics.
In 1979 they released a smoother sound with “Ladies Night” and became it became their first platinum album. Through the 80’s Kool and the Gang began to be classified as a more pop sound. This album had singles like “Celebration” which would make them global .
Their influence expanded outside the genre of funk, being the second most sampled artist for hip hop songs in the 1990’s. Their funky instrumentals and hooks made for hip-hop/rap gold, giving many popular artists from the genre today some of their biggest hits from their early days.
With their songs being used for movie soundtracks, samples, and parties to date, their impact on the genre of funk is undeniable. Their music has spans across 3 generations and has earned them thirty-four top ten hits and 31 gold and platinum albums. The funky sound that Kool and the Gang created has allowed them to still have global tours to date, and even release new music that still charts.