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Biofile Robert “Kool” Bell

By Scoop Malinowski

Status:  Founding member, singer, bassist for Kool & The Gang, one of the longest non-stop touring bands in the industry.

DOB:  October 8, 1950  In: Youngstown , Ohio

Music Inspirations:  “Motown, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson, James Brown, Freddie Hubbard, Miles Davis, John Coltrane. Today – Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire. Younger artists – Ne-Yo and Chris Brown, Musiq Soulchild and John Legend.”

Hobbies/Interests:  “When I have time I like to go to the gym and workout. Fishing. Get to the city, see a nice play.”

Favorite Movies:  “Denzel Washington in ‘When We Were Titans’ was a good one for me. ‘Star Wars’.”

Favorite TV Shows:  “I haven’t watched TV much because I’m traveling a lot. ‘Sopranos’. Most of the time I watch CNN because I’m on the road.”

Last Book Read:  “I’m more into reading the trades, like Billboard. Can’t remember the last book.”

First Job:  “Working in the kitchen at Job Corps in Jersey City (age 16).”

First Car:  “Was a Pinto (green).”

Current Car:  “Mercedes (silver/blue).”

Early Career Memory:  “First professional show at The Apollo Theater in New York . We came out with our first single record in ’69. That was our first experience working in front of an audience – The Apollo always had a reputation for having a tough audience back then. So you had to have your act together. I remember Willie Feaster And The Mighty Magnificents performed that night. And they ran us back to New Jersey [smiles]. They blew us back to Jersey . We had to re-group after that. It’s more than about just playing. You have to put the show together.”

Pre-Performance Feeling:  “We tend to focus on what we’re gonna do. Feel more excited, nervous energy from time to time. Depends on the event. We’ve done shows with Elton John. Or if you do a show in front of 100,000 in Wembley Stadium.”

Favorite Meal:  “Is – I’m a fish guy – red snapper or swordfish.”

Favorite Ice Cream Flavor:  “Haagen Dazs vanilla. I need to stay away from it but that’s my favorite.”

Greatest Career Moment:  “I think the greatest moment could be turning our career around. Coming out of the 70’s, ‘Jungle Boogie’, ‘Hollywood Swinging’, ‘Summer Madness’, ‘Funky Stuff’…that period, ’78-79, going into the 80’s…with ‘Ladies Night‘, ‘Celebration’, ‘Cherish’, ‘Get Down On It.’ Right before that we won an American Music Award for “Ladies Night’ in ’79 and a Grammy Award for the ‘Saturday Night Fever’ soundtrack ‘Open Sesame.’ Coming out of that, you live and learn. And then you learn to live.”

Most Painful Moment:  “Moment or time period? (Whatever.) That was the time you have ups and downs in your career. We made some bad decisions with bad management, accountants, lawyers. That was a slow period – latter part of the 70’s going into the 80’s.”

Funny Memory:  “There was an incident. We were in Dallas playing our song ‘Too Hot’ in around 1982. The keyboard player – there was a short fuse in the amplifier. Anyway, the amp caught on fire and the audience thought it was a part of our show. But this was a real situation…on ‘Too Hot’ of all songs. They had to come out with the fire extinguishers. It was hot that day too.”

Embarrassing Memory:  “There was an incident kind of embarrassing to us a couple of years ago. We were traveling from Paris to Germany , and the ride should take no more than four hours. And we were riding around thinking, Didn’t we drive by here already? It shouldn’t take this long. Finally we pulled into a McDonalds. The driver was lost for two hours. We almost missed the gig. We got there four hours late.”

Childhood Dream:  “In my early years I really had an interest in dealing with mechanics. I was born in Youngstown, Ohio , came to New Jersey in 1960 (age 10). I built my own motorbike by putting a lawn mower engine on a bicycle. So at that time I thought I might be a mechanic.”

Favorite Live Performers:  “Earth, Wind & Fire. Chicago. Stevie Wonder.”

Records Most Proud Of:  “That we recorded? (Yes.) ‘Summer Madness’ of course. ‘Celebration’, ‘ Hollywood Swinging.'”

Finest Performance(s):  “There was a couple. We did a show for Pepsi 100 Year Celebration on the big island in  Hawaii around ’98. The Rolling Stones were on that show, B.B. King. That was a memorable performance. The crowd reaction was great. It was a very happening night. Another one was we did an AIDS Awareness fundraiser in Kenya, Africa. We drew about a half a million that afternoon/early evening, for the cause also. That was a great moment, great show (2004).”

Last Vacation:  “St. Maarten with my wife.”

People Qualities Most Admired:  “Nice personality. Integrity. Honest. Integrity in terms of someone who is a friend – if they see you doing something bad they shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it.”

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