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George “Funky” Brown

The musician, known for co-writing hits such as Ladies’ Night and Celebration, died of lung cancer in Los Angeles

It is with sadness that I have heard George “Funky” Brown, known for playing an instrumental part in Kool and the Gang, has died at the age of 74.

Brown died in Los Angeles of lung cancer, according to a statement released from a representative. “When asked to describe his music, Brown always replied, ‘The sound of happiness,’” it read.

He was one of the co-founders of the band as well as the drummer and a songwriter, co-writing some of their biggest hits including Celebration, Ladies’ Night and Jungle Boogie. He described himself as a “self-taught” musician.

Kool and the Gang was started in 1964 in New Jersey. “None of us were silver spoon babies,” Brown said. “All Jersey City was in the city, meaning, you know, the minority and the hardships. And that lent itself to writing and playing a certain way – being untrained, but knowing or teaching ourselves how to play.”

The band released their self-titled debut album in 1969. After two more live albums, it was 1973’s Wild and Peaceful that pushed them to the forefront, with hits including Hollywood Swinging. Further success was found in 1979 with Ladies’ Night, an album that became their first platinum success.

Kool and the Gang

The band won two Grammy awards and had 31 gold and platinum albums.

In Brown’s memoir Too Hot: Kool & the Gang & Me, released earlier this year, he wrote about struggles with depression and prescription drugs. This past summer also saw the band release a new album called People Just Wanna Have Fun, written by Brown and bassist Robert “Kool” Bell. In August he decided to officially retire.

Samples from Kool and the Gang songs have been used by artists including Jay-Z, Beastie Boys, Madonna and Janet Jackson. Brown said he was “totally honored” by how often his music had been reused.

His family have asked, in lieu of flowers, that donations be made to the Lung Society of America.

In an interview earlier this year, Brown said: “When you do music that’s happy music, that’s what it does. It brings people to the clubs to have a good time. And that’s what we do. We say our prayer before we leave, and we say, let’s go make some people happy.”

Kool & The Gang are one of my favourite bands and their outstanding music and sound will always remain with me.


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