Kool & the Gang's 10 greatest songs ever

10 September 2020, 11:57

Kool & the Gang
Kool & the Gang. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

Kool & the Gang are one of the greatest soul and funk bands of all time, known for the infectious hits from the 1970s and 1980s.

With co-founder Ronald Bell sadly passing away at the age of 68, we're reminded of just how brilliant these guys from New Jersey were.

Formed by Ronald with brother Robert 'Kool' Bell, the group were initially completed by members Dennis Thomas, Robert Mickens, Charles Smith, George Brown, and Ricky West. Later, singer James 'JT' Taylor joined for some of their most successful hits.

Here are their very best songs to make for a perfect night of disco funk:

  1. Too Hot

    A slice of summery funk, this song came from the band's 1978 album Ladies' Night.

    It was actually their 13th album, and while they'd had some success in the R&B charts in the US, this was the first time they tasted mainstream recognition during the disco boom of the late '70s.

  2. Ladies' Night

    It was 1978's Ladies' Night album and its title track that saw Kool & the Gang finally score mainstream success around the world.

    This disco staple was a top 10 hit in the UK, their first at the time.

  3. Summer Madness

    This instrumental was recorded for the band's 1974 album Light of Worlds, and it's one of the smoothest summer james ever made.

    It's best known for being sampled by over 145 tracks over the years, most famously by The Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff on their 'Summertime' classic in 1991.

  4. Fresh

    Taken from their 1984 album Emergency, this catchy '80s gem was a top 20 hit in both the UK and US.

    Fun fact, this song helped bring a new meaning to the word 'fresh', to mean something 'good'.

  5. Get Down on It

    Kool & the Gang scored their biggest UK hit at the time with this post-disco classic in 1981.

    They were one of the few groups of the disco funk era who managed to move with the times as the '80s took hold, while still keeping the essence of what they were all about in the previous decade.

  6. Steppin' Out

    Perhaps sadly not as well known as their other hits, but this was a truly great piece of '80s funk, with fantastic vocals by Taylor.

    The band re-recorded it with Beverley Knight in 2004 for their remix album Reloaded.

  7. Joanna

    One of their biggest hits, 'Joanna' is a funky ballad from their 1983 album In the Heart, and reached number two in both the UK and US.

    The video shows 'Joanna' as the owner of a small café named Joanna's Diner. The band serenades her with the video occasionally flashing back to her younger days as a dancer at Harlem's famous Cotton Club, and in love with the character played by James 'JT' Taylor.

  8. Cherish

    Kool & the Gang scored one of their biggest ever hits with something a little different. They dropped the funk guitars for this one and went down the ballad route, and it worked.

    It was a top five hit in both the UK and US, and is still a wedding favourite.

  9. Jungle Boogie

    This popular nightclub track features a main vocal performed by the band’s roadie Don Boyce. An instrumental version of the tune with an overdubbed flute part and additional percussion instruments titled ‘Jungle Jazz’ appeared on the album Spirit of the Boogie.

    The song features in full during the opening credits of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, and was sampled in various tracks including MARRS’ ‘Pump Up the Volume’.

  10. Celebration

    Perhaps their most well-known song, thanks to its near-constant use at birthday parties and other celebrations over the past 30+ years!

    Ronald Bell said of the song: "The initial idea came from the Quran. I was reading the passage, where God was creating Adam, and the angels were celebrating and singing praises. That inspired me to write the basic chords, the line, 'Everyone around the world, come on, celebration".

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