George Brown, co-founder of Kool & the Gang and the band’s longtime drummer, has died. He was 74.
Brown died Thursday in Los Angeles after a battle with cancer, according to a statement released by Universal Music. Following his retirement earlier this year in August, he revealed a stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis.
Nicknamed George “Funky” Brown, the drummer helped write hits like “Joanna,” “Too Hot,” “Jungle Boogie,” “Summer Madness” and “Ladies Night” in addition to party and wedding favorite — “Celebration.”
Kool & the Gang was established in 1964, originally named the Jazziacs, with Brown’s friends Robert “Kool” Bell on the bass, Bell’s brother Ronald on keyboards and Charles Smith on the guitar. In an NPR interview, Brown called the band’s sound, a mix of soul, jazz and funk, “the sound of happiness.”
Brown retired nearly 60 years after Kool & the Gang was established.
In the mid-1970s, “Jungle Boogie” and “Hollywood Swining” marked two breakout hits for the band after member rotations and different names. Kool & the Gang reached a peak in the late ‘70s to mid-1980s with songs like “Cherish and “Joanna” as well as the more upbeat “Celebration.”
The band’s latest album, “People Just Wanna Have Fun,” was produced by Brown in 2023. He also released his memoir — “Too Hot: Kool & the Gang & Me” this year.
Brown was one of the longest-living members of Kool & the Gang in addition to Robert “Kool” Bell and Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas, the saxophonist who died in 2021.
The drummer is survived by his wife Hanh Brown and their five children. His family has asked that donations be made in his honor to the Lung Cancer Society of America, instead of sending flowers.
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