George Brown death: Kool & the Gang founding member, dies aged 74

George Brown, a drummer and songwriter who co-founded the band Kool & the Gang, died on Thursday. He was 74.

The news was confirmed to CNN via email from Kool & the Gang’s publicist Jerry Digney. Brown died in Los Angeles after a battle with cancer, according to Digney.

At first calling themselves the Jazziacs in 1964, Brown – along with Ricky Westfield, Ronald Bell and his brother Robert “Kool” Bell, and neighborhood friends Spike Mickens, Dennis Thomas and Charles Smith – began making music together that melded jazz, soul and funk.

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Brown was a drummer and songwriter for Kool & the Gang. (Isa Foltin/Getty Images)

After taking on various other monikers, including The New Dimensions, The Soul Town Band and Kool & the Flames, they landed on Kool & The Gang, officially launching in 1969.

Brown co-wrote many of the band’s iconic songs, including Ladies Night – off their 1979 album of the same name – as well as Too Hot, Jungle Boogie, Summer Madness, Open Sesame, Celebration and Cherish.

The band was nominated for three Grammy Awards, winning one in 1979 for the soundtrack album for Saturday Night Fever. They also won seven American Music Awards, a BET Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award, induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

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FILE - Robert "Kool" Bell, from left, Ronald "Khalis" Bell, Dennis "DT" Thomas and George Brown attend a ceremony honoring Kool & The Gang with a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame on Oct. 8, 2015, in Los Angeles. Brown died Nov. 16, 2023 in Los Angeles, after a battle with cancer. He was 74. (Photo by Rich Fury/Invision/AP, file)
Robert “Kool” Bell, from left, Ronald “Khalis” Bell, Dennis “DT” Thomas and George Brown attending a ceremony honoring Kool & The Gang with a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2015. (Rich Fury/Invision/AP)

Brown’s signature drumming on the early Kool & The Gang recordings has been heavily sampled in the years since by artists such as Beastie Boys, Jay-Z, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Cypress Hill and The Killers, to name a few.

Until he retired in August of this year, Brown toured with Kool & the Gang as part of one of the longest-running R&B groups in history.

Brown also released his memoir this year, entitled Too Hot: Kool & The Gang And Me.

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When asked to describe his music, the artist always replied that it was “the sound of happiness,” according to his publicist’s message this week.

Brown is survived by his wife Hanh Brown and five sons.

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