George Brown, the drummer who gave Kool & the Gang its propulsive, infection beats, died Thursday (Nov. 17) after a battle with cancer, a Universal Music Enterprises spokesperson announced. He was 74.
Brown — whose nickname was “Funky” — was one of seven school friends from Jersey City, New Jersey, who came together in 1964 as an instrumental-only jazz and soul group calling itself the Jazziacs. Other members included Robert “Kool” Bell on bass, brother Ronald Bell on keyboards and Charles Smith on guitar.
The band went through several name changes, including the New Dimensions, the Soul Town Band and Kool & the Flames before settling on Kool & the Gang, the name that would become famous worldwide, in 1969. They signed to De-Lite records and released their first LP, the all-instrumental Kool and the Gang, in 1970. By 1973, they incorporated emerging disco trends in its sound, cracking the U.S. Top 10 with “Jungle Boogie” in 1973 and “Hollywood Swinging” in 1974.
After a period of decline, they roared back in 1979 with top-10 hits “Ladies Night” and “Too Hot” and the following year reached No. 1 — their only song to top the chart — with “Celebration.” Other hits include “Get Down on It,” “Fresh,” “Cherish” and “Joanna.”
The band has won two Grammys and seven American Music Awards and registered 31 gold and platinum albums to date. Brown’s signature drumming on the early Kool & the Gang recordings has been heavily sampled by such artists as the Beastie Boys, Jay-Z, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Cypress Hill, P. Diddy and The Killers.
When asked to describe his music, Brown — who released a memoir this year titled Too Hot: Kool & the Gang and Me — always replied, “It’s the sound of happiness.”
Brown is survived by his wife, Hanh, and children Dorian, Jorge, Gregory, Jordan, Clarence and Aaron. Donations can be made in his honor to the.
This article was written by Seth Abramovitch and originally published by