Robert Bell Songwriter, Producer, Musician and Co-Founder of the multi-award winning band Kool & the Gang who have sold over 70 million albums world-wide discusses his highly successful career, the inspirations that produced many chart topping hits, the creation of ‘Le Kool Champagne’ and the ‘Kool Kids Foundation’ plus much more…
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Co-Founder of the multi-award winning band Kool & the Gang who have sold over 70 million albums world-wide, Robert Bell Songwriter, Producer & Musician discusses his highly successful career, the inspirations that produced many chart topping hits, the creation of ‘Le Kool Champagne’ and the ‘Kool Kids Foundation’ and much more..
Interview Robert Bell Co-Founder of Kool and the Gang with Nigel Beckles Audio version available at:
Podcasts Website https://www.authornigelbecklespodcasts.com/
Nigel Beckles: Welcome back to my in conversation podcast series. My guest for this very special episode is a musician whose legendary band has won multiple awards and sold over 70 million albums worldwide, co-founder of Kool and the Gang, American, Robert Bell.
(Music Intro Celebrate)
Nigel Beckles: Robert, a pleasure to meet you, virtually. First of all, I should say condolences regarding your brother Ronald's recent passing.
Robert Bell: Yeah, well, thank you very much definitely took us by surprise. One of the major writers for Celebration and Ladies Night and Get Down On It and on and on and on. All of those songs we worked together. Ladies Night, my wife and I came up with that title. And I went back to my brother and said I got a great title for the song for the first song said Ladies Night. So Ladies Night, that's how I came up with that title.
Nigel Beckles: Where did you grow up? And what was it like?
Robert Bell: Well, actually, I my brother and I, we moved to Jersey City in 1960, the band was formed was in 196, we had various then finally, Kool and the Gang.
Nigel Beckles: How did you become interested in music?
Robert Bell: You know, my grandmother played a little piano and my father was a featherweight, lightweight boxer and he travelled around the world, and different musicians would come to see him. People like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, all those guys. So it came from that and just listening to music as a young kid.
Nigel Beckles: So Robert, what instrument do you play?
Robert Bell: I play the bass guitar
Nigel Beckles: So how did Kool and the gang become a group or a band? How did they come together?
Robert Bell: We moved to Jersey City. We met our first producer and the very first record came out in 1969.
Nigel Beckles: So when did the band first perform live?
Robert Bell: I will say some of the live performance were at the Apollo Theatre in New York.
Nigel Beckles: Your fourth studio album Wild and Peaceful produced three hits Funky Stuff, Jungle Boogie, and Hollywood Swinging. Which one is your favourite? And why?
Robert Bell: Oh, those are all my favourites, man. Listen, yeah, you gotta have had territorial hits. You need to get with a producer, you know, try to take it to the next level. So we went to the studio downtown in the village called Baggies. And we went in there, and we were in Chicago, Illinois, and we started jamming by the time we finished we had three hits.
Nigel Beckles: So back in 1979 Ladies Night was a massive hit.
Robert Bell: Like I said, that was I came up with the name. But the track was with George Brown. He did the music part of it all. My brother Ronald, James Taylor had joined the band at that time. Like we always collaborated together.
Nigel Beckles: And the following year 1980 celebration or celebrate as it's sometimes called, was also a big hit. So how did it feel to have a number one hit in America?
Robert Bell: Oh, great. We got to the came after Ladies Night. And we're out in LA to celebrate the fact that we have won two American Music Awards. My brother Ronald was inspired to take celebrate from Ladies Night and come up with a song called Celebration. And there was a spiritual side to that story in the Quran God created man. And that was going to be a celebration. And of course, that's what it became. And now celebration. This year, forty years of Celebration's release to fit what celebrations are all about.
Nigel Beckles: Well Kool and The Gang have sold around 70 million albums worldwide. And the band has also won numerous awards, including a Grammy Award and also seven American Music Awards. So which award are you most proud of and why?
Robert Bell: Grammys, of course, when you win the Grammy, your peers look at you. Oh, wow. But we were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. We felt that that was a great one. But that's dealing with your peers and to be recognised to be a part of the Songwriters Hall of Fame. We're still waiting for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Maybe one day. We have, you know, from the Tokyo Music Award to New Jersey Hall of Fame. And it goes on and on. But they are Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We're still waiting on you guys. Out there. You hear me? Maybe 2021.
Nigel Beckles: I understand Kool and the Gang are still performing.
Robert Bell: Yes and no. Because of the pandemic. Nobody performing right now. We lost almost at some shows. We might not be working until April next year. But in a normal situation we do over 100 shows a year, from Europe, to Africa, to Asia, to the UK to Germany, you name it. We have travelled pretty much.
Nigel Beckles: You began the Kool Foundation. So what is that about?
Robert Bell: I lost my wife two years ago now. And she wanted to do something for the kids in school and she wanted to move music back into the schools. She came up with an idea called the Kool Kids Foundation. And that was one of the things that my wife wanted to do. And before she passed, I should say maybe about 10 years ago, we did a tour called it's cool to stay in school. And it was in 42 cities across America sponsored by Jericho. And one of the criteria that the artist or the kids was coming to see we do a meet and greet had to be doing well in school, right attendance and you know, doing their homework and all their stuff. There was a group Oklahoma City that came to us. I said, Well, cool, we got a great man would like sing a song. I said, Okay, my cousin was with me. So they sang two songs in acapella. So did you guys sound pretty good. So my cousin Adele myself, you said we want to get you together as a dancer, Adele’s brother, and work on some material. Artists were discovered through that. That's all about the foundation and the kids and the music and the schools.
Nigel Beckles: Well, it sounds that it produced some very great talent. So Robert, what are your plans for the future?
Robert Bell: Well, yeah, a couple of things. Right now I have a champagne, called the Kool champagne. About a year ago, maybe a year ago, I was touring in Europe and the promoter and I just came out with champagne, for Barry White. And he asked me would you be interested in doing champagne he also done something one of the Bee Gees. I said, I'm interested but I don't think you know, my fans will be interested in champagne at a concert. They come to the concert, you know, they want a T shirt, you know, caps, that kind of thing. But I said Well, I'd like to do I want to go retail. I wanted to be on the shelf. So, so Okay, so I came up with this idea, because I wanted to have that French vibe to it. That's how it started and, you know, then slowed up a little bit because of the pandemic. But we're looking hopefully, you know, for the pickup next year 2021 and we I'll have some fun and have you a nice cool glass of champagne at your party. So Celebrate a good time.
Nigel Beckles: So Robert How can people contact you or reach out to Kool and the Gang?
Robert Bell: Kool and the Gang dot com and lekoolchampanpagne dot com (https://www.koolandthegang.com/ https://lekoolchampagne.com/)
Nigel Beckles: Well, Robert Bell, Co-Founder of the legendary Kool and the Gang, thank you very much for your time, very much appreciate it.
Robert Bell: Well thank you. I like to say to my fans in the UK, we started coming to the UK back in the mid-70s and Kool and the Gang and UK have a special relationship that you guys have supported us for so many years. So I like to thank my fans and we will see you soon.