Let’s play a game. How many Kool & the Gang songs do you know?
OK, you definitely said its 1980 timeless smash, “Celebration,” while shamelessly singing it (“Celebrate good times, come on!”). But beyond the biggie, there are so, so, so many more Kool & the Gang songs that have passed the test of time and you’re likely still humming today.
Just like its jams, the band is still rockin’ and will headline an After Hours Concerts show at Marks & Harrison Amphitheatre in Fredericksburg on Saturday evening.
In addition to the fans the New Jersey-bred band has made throughout its 55 years in the biz, it’s still making new ones—everywhere.
“Every year we do a bunch of shows overseas. We just played ... came from a show in the hills of Germany,” said Kool & the Gang co-founder Robert “Kool” Bell in a phone interview from Geneva, Switzerland. “Everyone from 8 years old to 80 years old were singing our songs. It’s always quite a sight to see, especially when their first language may not be English.”
There are plenty of Kool & the Gang hits for any crowd to sing along to. Founded by Bell and his brother, Ronald, in 1964, the ever-soul-filled group now has 31 gold and/or platinum album to its name, two Grammy awards, 25 top 10 R&B hits and nine top 10 pop hits.
Among its staples are the infectious “Jungle Boogie,” “Cherish,” “Open Sesame” and “Summer Madness.” Equally as impressive as its catalog and accolades, Kool & the Gang has toured continuously for 43 years, the longest stretch of any R&B group in music history.
“We just keep going. ... We’re a touring machine!” said Bell with a laugh.
As probably imagined, fans do yell out for “Celebration” to be played from the beginning of most shows. Bell said you don’t have to do that because it’s inevitably coming.
“ ‘Celebration’ is always the last song, so we will get to it,” he said. “We can’t play anything after ‘Celebration.’ After we celebrate, there’s nothing else to do ... except go home!”
In addition to the road trips, the band does have a few more creative projects in the works.
“We’re working on a documentary, with some vignettes and great footage,” said Bell. “We’re about three to four years into it. Those things can take a while, but we’re getting there.”
Additionally, Bell says the band is writing a play/musical of sorts and, separately, plans to release an anthology of Kool & the Gang hits in 2020. Until all of the new stuff hits shelves, airwaves and stages, Bell believes there’s a lot to celebrate in our world, despite how loony it may seem sometimes.
“The fact that we’re still here, we can all celebrate that,” he said. “It’s not all bad and there is a lot of good in the world. It may not be promoted all the time, but it’s definitely there.”