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R&B group Kool & the Gang enjoyed two distinct career phases during its heyday in the 1970s and early '80s: first as a groove-driven powerhouse in the Parliament/Earth, Wind & Fire vein with dance floor heavyweights like "Jungle Boogie," and later, as the more adult contemporary-minded act behind such ubiquitous soul-pop cuts as "Celebration" and "Cherish." The group began in 1964 as the Jazziacs, an instrumental combo fronted by teenaged bassist Robert "Kool" Bell and his brother, Ronald, on brass, which played clubs and small theaters in their hometown of Jersey City, New Jersey. They expanded their audience by adding flourishes of soul and funk to their repertoire, which prompted a name change to Soul Town Band and club dates in New York City. By 1969, they had adopted Kool & the Gang as their moniker, and recorded an eponymous debut album that same year, which reached No. 43 on the Billboard R&B charts. Substantial chart success would elude them for several years, though they remained a popular live act, until the release of their fourth album, Wild and Peaceful (1973), which rose to No. 6 on the R&B chart on the strength of three hit singles -- "Funky Stuff," "Jungle Boogie" and "Hollywood...

R&B group Kool & the Gang enjoyed two distinct career phases during its heyday in the 1970s and early '80s: first as a groove-driven powerhouse in the Parliament/Earth, Wind & Fire vein with dance floor heavyweights like "Jungle Boogie," and later, as the more adult contemporary-minded act behind such ubiquitous soul-pop cuts as "Celebration" and "Cherish." The group began in 1964 as the Jazziacs, an instrumental combo fronted by teenaged bassist Robert "Kool" Bell and his brother, Ronald, on brass, which played clubs and small theaters in their hometown of Jersey City, New Jersey. They expanded their audience by adding flourishes of soul and funk to their repertoire, which prompted a name change to Soul Town Band and club dates in New York City. By 1969, they had adopted Kool & the Gang as their moniker, and recorded an eponymous debut album that same year, which reached No. 43 on the Billboard R&B charts. Substantial chart success would elude them for several years, though they remained a popular live act, until the release of their fourth album, Wild and Peaceful (1973), which rose to No. 6 on the R&B chart on the strength of three hit singles -- "Funky Stuff," "Jungle Boogie" and "Hollywood Swinging" -- which went to No. 1 on the R&B chart and No. 6 on the pop chart. Subsequent releases failed to replicate this success, though Kool & the Gang would earn a Grammy for the inclusion of "Open Sesame" on the wildly successful "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack. But with the inclusion of new vocalist James "J.T." Taylor" and jazz arranger Eumir Deodato as producer in 1979, the band's fortunes soared. Deodato burnished the band's funky grit to a high-gloss, pop-friendly sound that complimented Taylor's smooth delivery, resulting in a slew of singles that scored on both the R&B and Hot 200 charts. "Ladies' Night" (1979) became their first R&B No 1 in five years, and was soon followed by five more chart-toppers" - "Celebration" (1980), "Take My Heart (You Can Have It If You Want It)," "Joanna" (1983), "Fresh" (1984) and "Cherish" (1985) - that earned Kool & the Gang seven consecutive gold or platinum albums. The band's second run of success petered out with the departure of Taylor for a solo career in 1986, though they continued to issue new albums into the 21st century. Their back catalog remained in the public consciousness thanks to inclusions on film soundtracks ("Pulp Fiction," 1992) and through sampling by countless hip-hop artists, including Will Smith, N.W.A., Jermaine Dupri and De La Soul.

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