George “Funky” Brown Passes Away: Kool & The Gang’s Drumming Maestro Was 74
George “Funky” Brown, the renowned drummer and a pivotal songwriter of the acclaimed pop-R&B ensemble Kool & The Gang, passed away in Los Angeles last night. His battle with lung cancer ended at the age of 74.
Brown, a cornerstone of the band alongside Robert “Kool” Bell on bass, his brother Ronald Bell on tenor, and lead vocalist James “J.T.” Taylor, contributed significantly to the creation of timeless hits like “Jungle Boogie,” “Hollywood Swinging,” Celebration, and “Get Down on It.”
TMZ first reported his passing.
Brown’s journey began in Jersey City, N.J., where he grew up. He was deeply influenced by jazz drumming legends like Elvin Jones, Art Blakey, and Jack DeJohnette. His path in music took a pivotal turn when he met his neighbor Ricky West, who would later become Kool & The Gang’s keyboardist. West introduced Brown to Ronald Bell, the future saxophonist and musical director of the band, and Robert Mickens, who would become the trumpeter. By the mid-1960s, while still in high school, they were performing in jazz clubs.
The band, initially known as the Jazziacs among other names, evolved into Kool & The Gang in 1969. They began forging their unique sound, a fusion of jazz, soul, funk, rock, and pop. Their big break came with the 1973 album Wild and Peaceful, featuring chart-topping hits like “Jungle Boogie” and “Hollywood Swinging.”
George Brown’s legacy is not just in the beats he played but in the way he seamlessly blended jazz’s complexity with the infectious grooves of funk and R&B, creating a sound that defined an era and continues to influence musicians today.