Ronald “Khalis” Bell of Kool & the Gang has died. He was 68.
Bell, who co-founded and sang in the New Jersey-based jazz, soul and funk band, died at his home in the U.S Virgin Islands Wednesday morning (September 9), his rep confirmed to PEOPLE. As yet, no cause of death has been revealed.
A self-taught musician, Ronald formed the group in 1964 with his brother, Robert “Kool” Bell,” and neighborhood friends Dennis “D.T.” Thomas, Robert “Spike” Mickens, Ricky West, Charles Smith, and George Brown. Initially calling themselves the Jazziacs, the band underwent several name changes before settling on Kool & the Gang in 1969.
Blending elements of pop and rock into their music, the band scored some of their greatest hits in the late-‘70s and ‘80s, many of which co-written by Ronald including “Ladies’ Night,” “Jungle Boogie,” “Get Down On It,” and the band's No. 1 song “Celebration.”
With a career spanning over 50 years, the group produced 23 studio albums and has sold over 70 million albums worldwide. In addition to winning seven American Music Awards and two Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year in 1979 for their inclusion on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, Kool & the Gang have also been inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame and received their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2015.
Ronald is survived by his wife, Tia; his 10 children; grandchildren; and brothers Robert, Wahid and Amir Bayyan, and sister Sharifah Bayyan.
Photo: Getty Images