Kool & the Gang co-founder George Brown—hailed as “the funkiest drummer the world has ever seen”—has died at the age of 74 after a battle with lung cancer.
“His beautiful soul is now at rest,” the band said in an announcement on Instagram on Friday. “We love you, George. Thank you for giving us the sound of happiness.”
Brown, whose nickname was Funky, spent nearly 60 years with the hit-making band, helping to write classics like “Celebration,” “Cherish,” and “Ladies Night.”
He stepped back from performing after being diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer but returned to the stage briefly after treatment.
A profile on the Songwriters Hall of Fame says Brown’s love of drumming dates back to his childhood in New Jersey when he would use butter knives to bang on whatever was around.
He and friends formed what would become Kool & the Gang in the mid-1960s, and the group hit it big in 1973 with “Jungle Boogie.” They have won two Grammy Awards and been endlessly sampled.
Brown published a memoir earlier this year in which he wrote about his struggles with depression and prescription drugs. But he often underscored the joy of Kool & the Gang’s music in interviews.
“You want to help create a culture, a world culture, where people come together with that music. That music is bringing people together and making this one-world culture greater than it was before,” he told NPR recently.
“When you do music that’s happy music, that’s what it does. It brings people to the clubs to have a good time. And that’s what we do. We say our prayer before we leave, and we say, let’s go make some people happy.”
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