Kool & the Gang’s Robert “Kool” Bell in 2012; Rob Ball/WireImage

Kool & the Gang reached a milestone with the release of their 25th studio album, Perfect Union, two weeks ago. However, it was difficult to celebrate following the recent passing of two of the founding members.

Saxophonist Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas died on August 7, one year after Ronald Bell, brother of band leader Robert “Kool” Bell, died in 2020.

“Our last show with Dennis Thomas was in Los Angeles on 4th of July weekend,” Kool tells People about their performance at the Hollywood Bowl. “We didn’t know that he would pass two or three weeks later. It was the greatest show. We blended very well with the live orchestra and it was great. We didn’t know that he would be leaving us after that.”

Perfect Union is the Grammy Award-winning band’s first album in eight years, and was conceived by Ronald Bell.

“[He] put together most of this album before he passed,” Kool continues. “The album represents the perfect union the band makes together and the theme of what not only our country, but the world is trying to achieve right now. “

After more than 50 years, Kool & the Gang is ready to document their impressive longevity with a project inspired by their 1974 party classic.

“We’re working on a documentary, a movie as well,” Kool reveals. “My working title is Hollywood Swinging: The Kool and the Gang Story.”

Despite so much recent tragedy, including the passing of his wife, Sakinah, in 2018, Bell is grateful for what has been a very special life.

“A lot of different things over the years were testing periods for me, learning periods of my life,” the 70-year-old bassist comments. “This experience has been a blessing, to be able to travel around the world and see so many different things.”

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