Kool and the Gang loses co-founder | Rock Candy

Kool and the Gang loses co-founder

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We're hearing elsewhere that Charles Smith, the co-founder and lead guitarist of classic R&B band Kool and the Gang, died earlier this week after a long illness. He was 57. Smith wasn't with the band when it played Riverfest last month; he had been hospitalized for several months and stopped touring in January.

The band's publicist, David Brokaw, said Smith died in Maplewood, N.J., but did not give a cause of death. Smith wrote the hit 'Joanna" and co-wrote "Celebration," "Hollywood Swinging" and "Jungle Boogie." Smith, Robert Bell, Ronald "Kool" Bell and the rest of the gang started out as a jazz band before infusing funk and R&B and creating the infectious sound that made them radio regulars in the 1970s and, after a brief hiatus from the charts, in the 1980s.

We're reminded of so many Riverfest-goers last month who commented on the great show Kool and the Gang put on that Friday night, and figure Smith would have been proud.

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