George Brown, a founding member of Kool & the Gang who played drums with the band and co-wrote such enduring standards as “Celebration,” “Jungle Boogie” and “Ladies Night,” died from lung cancer in L.A. on Wednesday. He was 74.
His death was announced by a representative from the band’s record company.
Brown started playing with the seven musicians that became Kool & the Gang in 1964, in Jersey City, N.J. They wood-shedded for nearly a decade before the group finally had a breakout hit with the riotous “Jungle Boogie” in 1973. Over the next dozen years, they had 25 Billboard R&B Top 10 hits, evolving from funk to disco to quiet storm.
They crossed over into the pop charts numerous times, reaching the Top 10 during the heyday of disco with “Ladies’ Night,” “Too Hot,” “Get Down on It” and “Celebration” — all songs featuring vocalist James “J.T.” Taylor — then striking a softer, smoother note with the subsequent “Joanna” and “Cherish.” Throughout it all, Brown anchored the group as their drummer, creating rhythms that earned him the nickname “Funky” and were sampled by hip-hop and pop artists including A Tribe Called Quest, the Beastie Boys, Madonna, De La Soul, N.W.A and Cypress Hill.
The group’s songs often appeared on film and television soundtracks — Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” notably used “Jungle Boogie” — and remained staples on the radio into the 2020s.
Kool & the Gang won two Grammy Awards and were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018.
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