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Kool & the Gang co-founder and singer dead at 68

Ronald "Khalis" Bell, a co-founder and singer of the group Kool & the Gang, has died. He was 68.

Ronald 'Khalis' Bell wrote some of the group's biggest hits, including Celebrate

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. Bell, a co-founder and singer in the group, has died. ( Rich Fury/Invision/The Associated Press)

Ronald "Khalis" Bell, a co-founder and singer of the group Kool & the Gang, has died. He was 68.

Bell died at his home in the U.S. Virgin Islands on Wednesday morning with his wife by his side, publicist Sujata Murthy said. The cause of death has not been released.

Kool & the Gang grew from jazz roots in the 1960s to become one of the major groups of the 1970s, blending jazz, funk, R&B and pop. After a brief downturn, the group enjoyed a return to stardom in the '80s.

The group won a Grammy in 1978 for their work on the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever. The group was honoured with a BET Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014 and inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame four years later.

As a self-taught musician, Bell created his own signature sound using horn lines, bass and synthesizer.

Bell wrote and composed some of the group's biggest songs including Celebration, Cherish, Jungle Boogie and Summer Madness, which was used in several films including Rocky and Baby Boy. The song was also used in a Nike shoe commercial featuring LeBron James.

Bell was working on a series of collaborations including a solo endeavour, Kool Baby Brotha Band. He also had plans to put together a series of animated shorts called Kool TV about the band's childhood and career.

Bell is survived by 10 children. Murthy said the funeral service will be private.

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