George “Funky” Brown, the drummer, keyboardist, and co-founder of R&B greats Kool & the Gang, died yesterday (November 16), his family said in a statement. He died at Long Beach Memorial Hospital of an undisclosed illness, though TMZ reports that he had been living with cancer. George Brown was 74 years old.
Brown co-founded Kool & the Gang in 1964, when they started playing jazz clubs in New Jersey. They broke out in 1973, honing their ever-shifting fusion of jazz, soul, funk, rock, and pop on the album Wild and Peaceful. Brown went on to co-write hits including “Ladies Night,” “Celebration,” and “Cherish.” Brown and the band won a Grammy Award in 1979. They were inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2015 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018.
Brown’s family said in a statement: “We lost our beloved husband and father, Kool & The Gang founding member George Brown last night. He passed away peacefully at Long Beach Memorial Hospital surrounded by family. His incredible talent and presence will be greatly missed and never forgotten.”