George Brown, Drummer and Co-founder of Kool & the Gang, Dead at 74

George Brown, Drummer and Co-founder of Kool & the Gang, Dead at 74
(L–R) George Brown, Ronald Bell, Dennis Thomas, and Robert "Kool" Bell of Kool and the Gang appear at the 2014 Soul Train Awards in Las Vegas on Nov. 7, 2014.(Omar Vega/Invision/AP)

NEW YORK—George “Funky” Brown, co-founder and longtime drummer of Kool & The Gang, died Thursday in Los Angeles at age 74.

Mr. Brown died after a battle with cancer, according to a statement released by Universal Music. He had retired earlier in the year, nearly 60 years after the band began, and revealed that he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.

Kool & The Gang has sold millions of records with its blend of jazz, funk, and soul. In 1964, Mr. Brown helped launch the Grammy-winning group, originally called the Jazziacs, along with such friends as bassist Robert “Kool” Bell, brother Ronald Bell on keyboards, and guitarist Charles Smith.

After years of relative obscurity, name changes and personnel changes, Kool & The Gang broke through in the mid-1970s with “Jungle Boogie” and “Hollywood Swinging” among others songs and peaked in the late 1970s-mid 1980s, with hits ranging from the ballads “Cherish” and “Joanna” to the up-tempo, chart-topping “Celebration,” now a standard at weddings and other festive gatherings.

Mr. Brown is survived by his wife, Hanh Brown, and his five children. In lieu of flowers, his family has asked that donations can be made in his honor to the Lung Cancer Society of America.

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