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Rated: ASR · Poetry · Contest Entry · #2233711
A blackout poem using obituary and lyrics of 'Misled'.
Resurrection Jukebox 1/ Ronald Bell from Kool & the Gang

Kool & the Gang were one of the first fully fledged funk ensembles – taking the influence of Sly Stone and James Brown’s pioneering recordings and blending it with strong jazz leanings, their distinctive sound emphasised by bright horns, percussive congas and cowbells. Where Stone and Brown were highly charismatic band leaders, Kool & the Gang were an anonymous ensemble, with few fans even being able to identify which of the 10 musicians was “Kool”. Ronald Bell, who has died suddenly aged 68, wasn’t Kool – that was his older brother Robert’s nickname – but he co-founded the band with Robert in 1964 and remained a pivotal member for more than 50 years, playing multiple instruments, co-writing all their hits and producing much of their material.

Kool & the Gang’s hits from 1973 to 1985 are still favourites on radio and in clubs, regularly played at sports events and weddings. Their US chart-topper Celebration (1980) – a UK No 7 – became the victory anthem of the early 1980s: it greeted American hostages as they arrived home from Iran in 1981 and also served as the theme song for that year’s Super Bowl. Their songs appeared on the soundtracks of such films as Rocky (1976), Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Pulp Fiction (1994).

Ronald was born in Youngstown, Ohio, to Aminah Bayyan and Robert “Bobby” Bell. The family lived an impoverished existence in an apartment above a dry cleaners. When Ronald was still a boy, Bobby, determined to further his career as a professional boxer, shifted the family to Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1961. Bobby was a jazz devotee and the pianist Thelonious Monk became his close friend, while the trumpeter Miles Davis would drop by at the family home to discuss boxing.

Attending Lincoln high school, Ronald and Robert formed their first band, the Jazziacs, with fellow pupils (most of whom would remain band mates for the following decades), playing jazz clubs and bars. Their sound began to change when, in 1968, they became part of the Soul Town Band, learning recent soul hits to accompany singers. Deciding to perform under Robert’s nickname, they settled on Kool & the Gang. “I wanted to be like John Coltrane and the trumpet player wanted to be Miles Davis,” Bell told the Citizen newspaper in 2018, noting, “We transitioned to Kool & the Gang when we found we could make some money doing this.”

Releasing their debut single, Kool and the Gang – a fast-paced, jazz-inflected dance instrumental – in 1969 on the tiny Redd Coach Records, led to De-Lite Records signing the band and reissuing the 45. It reached No 19 in the US R&B charts. They were on their way, and the album Wild and Peaceful (1973) showcased their dynamic blend of jazz and funk mixed with heavy percussion and vocal chants. Jungle Boogie and Hollywood Swinging broke the band into the US Top 10 R&B and pop charts.

Although their 1976 song Open Sesame featured on Saturday Night Fever’s bestselling soundtrack, the band struggled to adapt to disco, with the albums The Force (1977) and Everybody’s Dancin’ (1978) failing to find favour. They hired the club singer James “JT” Taylor and, with the Brazilian musician Eumir Deodato as producer, the album Ladies’ Night (1979), and its hit title track, gave the band their greatest success so far (and broke them in the UK). This was a new Kool & the Gang, black pop rather than funk/disco.

It was a wise move: as disco’s popularity dived, Kool & the Gang went on to even greater success with Celebration. Bell wrote the basis of the composition – although publishing credits tended to be shared among the entire band – noting he was inspired both by the creation story in the Qur’an and the last line of Ladies’ Night, where the band sing “let’s all celebrate”. Ronald and Robert had both joined Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam in 1972. Ronald was given his Muslim name, Khalis Bayyan, by Elijah Muhammad’s son, Warith Deen Mohammed, and followed Mohammed when he shifted the NOI into a mainstream Islamic organisation.

Kool & the Gang were among the few Americans on Band Aid’s 1984 charity single Do They Know It’s Christmas?, as the band happened to be in the UK when its recording took place. Their single Cherish was a Top 5 US and UK hit in 1985. But, as the band continued to make their sound ever poppier, it cost them their core fanbase. Taylor left the band in 1988 for a sporadically successful solo career, often produced by Bell, who freelanced as a producer in the US.

The band continued with new lead vocalists, yet never troubled the charts again. Having sold upwards of 70m records, they remained a very popular live attraction, notably getting tens of thousands of Glastonbury festival revellers dancing in 2011. Rappers found their early albums fertile ground for samples and the band embraced this on the album Gangland (2001), for which they re-recorded 17 of their earlier tracks with rappers reinterpreting them. Alongside their many music awards, the band were given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a stretch of Jersey City road was renamed Kool & the Gang Way.

Bell is survived by his third wife, Tia Sinclair Bell, 10 children and Robert.

Ronald Bell (Khalis Bayyan), musician and songwriter, born 1 November 1951; died 9 September 2020


Late at night, body's yearning
Restless night, want to be with you
Someone's playing in the garden
So enticing, he's sure to take a bite

I don't know what's come over me, yeah
She's as heavy as a Chevy
Pure excitement, misled
When she touches, can't resist her
I'm a puppet when she's playing me
She's outgoing but I love her so misled
So I'm saying now
Baby baby, what's your claim to fame?
Got me out of bed, heard you call my name
What's this crazy place, you want to take me to?
Tell me, what's the price if I go with you?
My heart, my soul, my love

Is that the goal?
It's a thrill then I will
Be misled, be for real
Thought I knew her, this lady
Opportunist, misled

Always searching for adventure
Like Pandora's box, misled
I don't know what I'm gonna do without her
Baby, baby, what's your claim to fame?
Got me out of bed, heard you call my name
What's this crazy place, you want to take me to?
Tell me, what's the price if I go with you?
My heart, my soul, my love
Is that the goal?
It's a thrill then I will
Be misled or be for real

I've got this feeling and it's blocking my way
But I love her just the same, just the same
Oh yes I do
Misled, heard you call my name
Misled, what's your claim to fame?
Misled, took me by the head
Misled, said I would understand

Misled, with a bomb of broken Venus
Misled, not a word is said
Misled, baby, that's your name
Misled, what's your claim to fame?
My heart, my soul, my love
Is that the goal?
It's a thrill then I will
Misled, won't you be for real?
Baby, baby, what's your claim to fame?
Got me out of bed, heard you call my name
What's this crazy place you want to take me to?
Tell me, what's the price If I go with you?
My heart, my soul, my love
Is that the goal?
It's a thrill then I will
Hey misled, won't you be for real?
Misled, misled
Misled, misled
Misled, misled
Misled, misled
Misled, ..
Misled, misled

I was misled by you


Taking the influence
distinctive sound,
highly charismatic
anonymous victory anthem.
An impoverished existence,
apartment above;
began to change,
wild and peaceful,
a wise move.
Late at night
want to be
someone -
what's come over me?
Pure excitement,
can't resist;
a puppet
so misled.
What's your claim to fame?
Heard you call my name.
This crazy place;
tell me
is that the goal?
I will be misled.
Thought I knew,
always searching,
don't know what I'm gonna do...
I've got this feeling
blocking my way;
a bomb,
not a word is said.
I was misled by you.
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