I can’t recall the last time my legs actually gave out underneath me but hearing about the passing of Ronald “Khalis” Bell… From the age of 8, when I first discovered Kool & the Gang’s Wild and Peaceful album in my mom’s collection, this man, his compositions and that band shaped the soundtrack of my life. I’ve said it a million times before, but everything I’ve ever done musically began with a Kool & the Gang album. Having my dad drive me deep into Jersey to find their early out of print albums and studying their catalog note for note are what come to mind when I try to reconnect with my love for music. Khalis is on the Mt. Rushmore of funk saxophonists, horn chart creators and composers and stands as one of the greatest musical geniuses of our time.
I never figured that years later I’d have the honor to meet this man on multiple occasions and tell him what his music did for me both as a musician and as a person. And finally chances to get all of those records my dad drove me all over the place to find signed. To hear stories directly from him about “Pneumonia” being written backstage at The Sex Machine night club or “Funky Stuff,” “Jungle Boogie” and “Hollywood Swinging” all being cut the same day. I remember driving home from that totally floored, telling my dad in disbelief on the phone because he knew what sitting down to speak to this man meant to me. THE Ronald “Khalis” Bell. I feel like part of me is gone right now, but he’s given me and all of us so much brilliant music and all of his gifts – which are enough to last forever. My condolences to the entire Kool and the Gang family. Thank you, Khalis.