Kool & the Gang drummer George Brown dies

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George Brown, co-founder, drummer and composer of Kool & the Gang, has died at the age of 74.

George Brown, co-founder, drummer and songwriter of Kool & the Gang, died Thursday, November 16, from cancer. He was 74 years old.

A representative for Kool & the Gang confirmed Brown’s death in a statement shared with WECB. Brown’s family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the Lung Cancer Society of America in his honor.

Aptly nicknamed “Funky,” Brown not only provided the rhythm for Kool & the Gang’s many indelible hits from the funk and disco era, he also helped write them. Brown’s co-writing credits include tracks such as ” Ladies Night “, ” Jungle Boogie “, ” Celebration “, ” Summer Madness ” And ” Too Hot “.

And while these songs remain party classics, Brown’s drumming has remained very present in the music thanks to Kool & the Gang’s myriad samples in pop and hip-hop. Jay-Z, Madonna, Nas, NWA, the Killers, Janet Jackson, the Beastie Boys, De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest are all artists who have covered these grooves.

Brown grew up in Jersey City, New Jersey, and as he stated in a 2015 interview with the Red Bull Music Academy, his “ internal rhythm » manifested itself very early in his childhood: “ I used to take butter knives and play on thingshe remembered. Then I went to a music store on Newark Avenue in Jersey City and got a $3 lesson from a man who played with the Shirelles. He said to me: “Hey, you have it in your blood!” “.

Brown’s family couldn’t afford to continue paying for lessons, but he trained tirelessly and studied the great jazz drummers, especially Buddy Rich. In 1964, while still a teenager, Brown teamed up with Robert “Kool” Bell, Ronald Bell, Ricky Westfield, Dennis Thomas, Spike Pickens and Charles Smith to form a new group called the Jazziacs. Over the next few years, the group performed regularly, often playing Motown covers, and went through several names before settling on Kool & the Gang and beginning to write their own material.

Kool & the Gang enjoyed modest success with their early albums, notably the soulful single ” Let the Music Take Your Mind », ranked in the Top 20, taken from his eponymous debut album from 1969 (an entirely instrumental album). A few live recordings and studio albums followed, but it wasn’t until 1973 that Kool & the Gang broke through. That year, they released their fourth album, Wild and Peaceful, which contains the tubes “ Jungle Boogie “, ” Hollywood Swinging ” And ” Funky Stuff “.

Although Kool & the Gang produced a few more hits in the mid-seventies, the group’s commercial fortunes briefly eroded as the decade wore on. By teaming up with Brazilian producer and arranger Emir Deodato, the group was able to streamline their songs, and they soon began dominating the charts again with classics like ” Ladies’ Night “, ” Too Hot “, ” Get Down On It “, ” Joanna ”, and his only number one hit, “ Celebration “.

As George Brown said in an interview with NPR earlier this year, Kool & the Gang’s sound was ” the sound of happiness “. And Brown managed to maintain his grip on that sound, even as he battled depression and drug addiction.

After the heyday of the 1980s, Kool & the Gang’s studio output slowed, but they continued to tour regularly and their songs began to appear frequently in hip-hop. During the Red Bull Academy interview, Brown said his son warned him about the increasing prevalence of Kool & the Gang samples.

I’m totally honored that producers around the world have shown that they love it. I am honored and disconcerted by it. But I don’t walk around with that kind of idea in mind, like “I’m going to do research and see who samples me”. I never thought this kind of thing was necessary until today. We are artists and we just try to bring happiness to people. It’s a blessing. »

Brown was one of the longest-serving members of Kool & the Gang, along with Robert “Kool” Bell and saxophonist Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas (died 2021). Last July, Kool & the Gang released a new album, People Just Want to Have Fun, which Brown produced. The same month he published his memoirs Too Hot: Kool & the Gang & Me. In August, however, he officially decided to retire from music.

You want to see people happy, and you want to succeed at thatGeorge Brown said in the NPR interview. And you want to help create a culture, a global culture, where people come together around this music. This music brings people together and makes this world culture bigger than it was before. And when you make happy music, that’s what it does. She brings people to clubs to have fun. This is what we do. We say our prayer before we leave and we say to ourselves: “Let’s go make people happy”. »


Written by

Christopher Johnson

Christopher Johnson is a dedicated writer and key contributor to the WECB website, Emerson College's student-run radio station. Passionate about music, radio communication, and journalism, Christopher pursues his craft with a blend of meticulous research and creative flair. His writings on the site cover an array of subjects, from music reviews and artist interviews to event updates and industry news. As an active member of the Emerson College community, Christopher is not only a writer but also an advocate for student involvement, using his work to foster increased engagement and enthusiasm within the school's radio and broadcasting culture. Through his consistent and high-quality outputs, Christopher Johnson helps shape the voice and identity of WECB, truly embodying its motto of being an inclusive, diverse, and enthusiastic music community.