George Brown, a founding member of Kool & the Gang who played drums with the band and co-wrote such enduring songs as “Celebration,” “Jungle Boogie” and “Ladies Night,” died of lung cancer in Los Angeles on Wednesday. He was 74 years old.
His death was announced by a representative of the band’s record label.
Brown began playing with the seven musicians who became Kool & the Gang in 1964, in Jersey City, New Jersey. They worked for nearly a decade before the group finally scored a big hit with the riotous “Jungle Boogie” in 1973. Over twelve years, they had 25 Billboard Top 10 R&B hits, evolving from funk to disco to Quiet Storm.
They hit the charts numerous times, reaching the Top 10 during the heyday of disco with “Ladies’ Night”, “Too Hot”, “Get Down on It” and “Celebration”, all songs featuring vocalist James “JT.” Taylor then hits a softer, more fluid note with the following “Joanna” and “Cherish.” Throughout all of this, Brown anchored the group as their drummer, creating beats that earned him the nickname “Funky” and were sampled by hip-hop and pop artists such as A Tribe Called Quest, Beastie Boys, Madonna, De La Soul, NWA and Cypress Hill.
The group’s songs often appeared on film and television soundtracks (“Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction” notably used “Jungle Boogie”) and remained radio staples into the 2020s.
Kool & the Gang won two Grammy Awards and were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018.
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