George Brown, Kool & The Gang’s Drummer And Co-Founder, Dies Aged 74
Drummer George Brown, aka “Funky”, known for co-founding Kool and the Gang, has died at the age of 74.
Brown died in Los Angeles after a battle with lung cancer, according to a statement released through Brown’s family via a representative for the band that said, “We lost our beloved husband and father, Kool & The Gang founding member George Brown last night. He passed away peacefully at Long Beach Memorial Hospital surrounded by family. His incredible talent and presence will be greatly missed and never forgotten.”
The band also paid tribute to Brown on Instagram, posting a photo of him and writing, “In loving memory of our dear brother, co-founder and the funkiest drummer the world has ever seen. His beautiful soul is now at rest. We love you, George. Thank you for giving us the sound of happiness.”
Brown was one of the co-founders of the band as well as the drummer and he also had considerable songwriting skills, co-writing some of his band’s biggest hits including Celebration, Ladies’ Night, Get Down On It and Jungle Boogie. He described himself as a “self-taught” musician.
Kool and the Gang formed in 1964 in New Jersey, with Brown joined by brothers Robert “Kool” Bell and Ronald Bell, Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas, Robert “Spike” Mickens, Charles Smith, Woodrow “Woody” Sparrow, and Ricky West.
“None of us were silver spoon babies,” Brown said. “All Jersey City was in the city, meaning, you know, the minority and the hardships. And that lent itself to writing and playing a certain way – being untrained, but knowing or teaching ourselves how to play.”
The band released their self-titled debut album in 1969. After two more live albums, it was 1973’s Wild and Peaceful that pushed them to the forefront, with hits including Hollywood Swinging. Further success was found in 1979 with Ladies’ Night, an album that became their first platinum success. Overall, the band won two Grammy awards and had 31 gold and platinum albums.
In Brown’s memoir Too Hot: Kool & the Gang & Me, released earlier this year, he wrote about struggles with depression and prescription drugs. This past summer also saw the band release a new album called People Just Wanna Have Fun, written by Brown and bassist Robert “Kool” Bell. In August he decided to officially retire. By this time, Brown had been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018, while Kool & the Gang were inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2015. Robert Bell is now the last surviving founding member of the group.
Samples from Kool and the Gang songs have been used by artists including Jay-Z, Beastie Boys, Madonna and Janet Jackson. Brown said he was “totally honoured” by how often his music had been reused.
In an interview with NPR earlier this year, George Brown said: “When you do music that’s happy music, that’s what it does. It brings people to the clubs to have a good time. And that’s what we do. We say our prayer before we leave, and we say, let’s go make some people happy.”