It’s a “Celebration”! Kool & the Gang’s Robert “Kool” Bell reacts to Rock Hall induction

Written by on April 23, 2024

Ebet Roberts/Redferns

In their six-decade career, Kool & the Gang have won Grammys and American Music Awards, gotten a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, received the Soul Train Legend Award and been inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the New Jersey Hall of Fame. But the group’s leader, Robert “Kool” Bell, says their newly announced induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is the one honor they’ve been waiting for.

“Well, first of all, I’m a Ohio boy. I was born in Youngstown, Ohio,” says Bell. “Cleveland was right up the street, OK? I felt that sooner or later, they would have to recognize us, and they finally did! Took a while.”

The honor is somewhat bittersweet, given that Bell is now the only living member of the original lineup. “Out of the original seven members, I’m the only one that’s here now,” says Bell. “Y’know, all my guys are gone. It’ll just be J.T. and I.” James “J.T.” Taylor was the band’s lead singer between 1979 and 1988, during the most successful part of the group’s career.

Asked who he’d like to have induct him, Bell says he’d choose either Lionel Richie, Questlove from The Roots or Nile Rodgers.

In addition to selling over 70 million albums, Kool & the Gang have made a huge impact on younger musicians. Bell recalls, “Bruno Mars is one, ’cause he used to listen to us. If you look at his style, you got the horns moving. … Another one said in an interview that the first song he learned was ‘Funky Stuff’ by Kool & the Gang — and that was Prince.”

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place October 19 in Cleveland and stream live on Disney+.

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