Ronald Bell, also known as Khalis Bayyan, was born on November 1, 1951, in Youngstown, Ohio, and was an influential American saxophonist, composer, and founding member of the legendary funk and jazz group Kool & the Gang. His contributions to the world of music spanned various genres, including R&B, soul, and funk, and his work with Kool & the Gang earned him a place in the annals of music history.
Bell grew up in a musical family, with his father, Robert “Bobby” Bell, being a professional boxer and musician who introduced his children to jazz and the saxophone. In 1964, Ronald and his brother, Robert “Kool” Bell, along with five friends, formed an instrumental band called the Jazziacs, which would later evolve into Kool & the Gang.
Kool & the Gang achieved their first commercial success in 1969 with their debut album, which featured a unique blend of jazz, soul, and funk music. Throughout the 1970s, the band continued to release successful albums and singles, with Bell playing a significant role as a saxophonist, composer, and arranger. He co-wrote many of the group’s most memorable hits, including “Celebration,” “Jungle Boogie,” “Summer Madness,” and “Ladies’ Night.”
In addition to his work with Kool & the Gang, Bell was also a devout Muslim and changed his name to Khalis Bayyan in the 1970s. He continued to explore his spirituality, which often found expression in his music and creative endeavors.
Kool & the Gang’s success continued into the 1980s, and the group’s music has been widely sampled by hip-hop and pop artists over the years, further cementing their influence and legacy. In 2018, Kool & the Gang received a well-deserved star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in recognition of their contributions to the music industry.
Ronald Bell passed away on September 9, 2020, at the age of 68, but his music and legacy continue to inspire and entertain fans worldwide. As a founding member of Kool & the Gang, Bell helped shape the sound of funk and R&B and left an indelible mark on the history of popular music.
Last updated 3/18/2023.