Kool & The Gang: “Cool” With Van Halen

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Robert "Kool" Bell and Ronald Bell of Kool & The Gang

Robert “Kool” Bell and Ronald Bell of Kool & The Gang

There were definitely some eyebrows raised in the rock community when news hit that the highly coveted opening spot on the Van Halen tour was going to funk legends Kool & The Gang.

But the bands have more than a bit in common.

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First off, they both have long lists of party anthems: VH’s catalog boasts “Runnin’ With The Devil,” “Unchained,” “So This Is Love?,” “And The Cradle Will Rock,” “Jump,” “Panama” and “Hot For Teacher,” while Kool & The Gang’s discography includes “Jungle Boogie,” “Ladies Night,” “Get Down On It,” “Hollywood Swinging” and of course, “Celebration.”

Secondly, both groups have roots in New York City’s Cafe Wha?: Robert “Kool” Bell played the club in the ’60s with his group The Five Sounds Jr. while Van Halen’s frontman David Lee Roth hung out there in the ’60s as well: his Uncle, Manny Roth, was the original owner of the club (and VH recently played a invite-only gig there on January 5).

And of course, both bands are family affairs: Kool & The Gang includes brothers Robert “Kool” Bell on bass and vocals and Ronald Bell on saxophone and vocals. Van Halen, of course, features brothers Eddie Van Halen on guitar and keyboards and drummer Alex Van Halen.  Since 2006, Eddie’s son Wolfgang Van Halen has been the group’s bass player.

But it turns out that the group was offered the opening slot simply because David Lee Roth saw them perform at England’s Glastonbury Festival and thought they’d be the perfect band to round out the bill. Check out the video below to see the Bell brothers talking about the tour. Kool & The Gang are on tour with Van Halen through June.


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