NJ’s George Brown, drummer of Kool & The Gang, dead at 74
NEW YORK — George “Funky” Brown, the co-founder and longtime drummer of Kool & The Gang who helped write such hits as “Too Hot,” “Ladies Night,” “Joanna” and the party favorite “Celebration,” died Thursday in Los Angeles at age 74.
Brown, a New Jersey native, died after a battle with cancer, according to a statement released by Universal Music. He had retired earlier in the year, nearly 60 years after the band began, and revealed that he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.
Born in Jersey City in 1949, Brown attended Lincoln High School in the city with most of the band's founding members. In 1964, Brown helped launch the Grammy-winning group, originally called the Jazziacs, along with such friends as bassist Robert “Kool” Bell, brother Ronald Bell on keyboards and guitarist Charles Smith.
Kool & The Gang has sold millions of records with its catchy blend of jazz, funk and soul, what Brown liked to call “the sound of happiness.”
After years of relative obscurity, name changes and personnel changes, Kool & The Gang broke through in the mid-1970s with “Jungle Boogie” and “Hollywood Swinging” among other songs and peaked in the late '70s-mid 1980s, with hits ranging from the ballads “Cherish” and “Joanna” to the up-tempo, chart-topping “Celebration,” now a standard at weddings and other festive gatherings.
In 2023, Brown produced the band's latest album, “People Just Wanna Have Fun,” and released his memoir “Too Hot: Kool & The Gang & Me.”
He is survived by his wife, Hanh Brown, and his five children. In lieu of flowers, his family has asked that donations can be made in his honor to the Lung Cancer Society of America.
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