Kool & the Gang make the case for why they should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (Courtesy Photo)
More than 4,000 hardcore RnB fans filled the RamsHead Theater at the Maryland Live Casino in suburban Baltimore recently to witness the legendary sounds of Kool & The Gang.
With more than 80-million records sold world-wide, one would assume that this successful band that spans six decades would have already been thrust into rock royalty – as members of the illustrious Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.
Unfortunately, they are not. Bassist/bandleader Robert Earl “Kool” Bell told the AFRO that the 52-year-old band was disappointed with not yet being inducted. Of course, the group is in good company. Janet Jackson, Sade and Eric B. and Rakim, among many other artists of note, are also not in the Hall of Fame.
Last October, the band was honored with its very first Hollywood Walk of Fame – an achievement that “Kool”Bell says is a very welcomed and ironic honor. “Afterall, we wrote a song called “Hollywood Swingin’ – so, it’s sort of appropriate that we would achieve this honor,” he said. In 2015, the group was also honored with a Soul Train Legend Award, while being inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.
Along with his brother and tenor saxman, Ronald “Kahalis” Bell, a 10-year-old “Kool” Bell, along with their parents, Bobby and Mabel Bell, moved from their original hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, to Jersey City, N.J. “I was 10 when we moved from Ohio,” Kool said after the Maryland show. As native Ohioans, the Bell brothers are part of an esteemed Ohio RnB fraternity of which several funk bands, musicians and singers have hailed from the Buckeye State –ultimately to become internationally-renown performers – some who are even HOF inductees at the Ohio-based Rock museum.
Such groups include The Ohio Players, The Isley Brothers, The O’Jays, Lakeside, Zapp and Roger Troutman, Bootsy Collins, Phelps “Catfish” Collins, Howard Hewitt (Shalamar), Bobby Womack, the Ingram brothers, James (Quincy Jones) and Philip (DeBarge); Ruby and the Romantics, Phillipe’ “Soul” Wynne (Spinners), MidnightStar, Heatwave, Faze-O, Dayton, and New Horizons featuring the Thomas brothers.
During their 90-minute Casino performance on Jan. 17, Kool & the Gang provided a non-stop, 18-song set-list that featured a diverse selection of the plethora of hits that have defined a generation. Especially significant was “Ladies Night,” “Celebration,” “Reggae Dancin,” “Jungle Boogie,” and the syncopated funk-retro tune from their early years, “N.T.”
Cecil Willingham, a long-time road manager for the band, noted that the group is “the most sampled band in RnB history” – topping even the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. Willingham also said the group is currently “in talks” with HOF officials, and that an induction could possibly occur within the upcoming year.
In an online video from 2013, group members visited the HOF facility, and following the tour, Kool Bell called the experience “beautiful” — adding that “we got to get up in here. They’ve got to show us some love.”
Let’s hope Cleveland’s HOF officials soon realize how much of an injustice that they are serving up — by refusing to admit Kool & the Gang into the Rock and Roll HOF.
It’s well beyond past time for this honor to occur.