According to a representative, the musician lost his battle with stage four lung cancer. “Brown has co-written many of the band’s iconic songs, including ‘Ladies Night,’ ‘Too Hot,’ ‘Jungle Boogie,’ ‘Celebration’ and ‘Cherish.’ When asked to describe his music, Brown always replied, ‘The sound of happiness,'” a statement read. He is survived by his wife, Hanh Brown, and his five children, who asked to have donations made in his honor to the Lung Cancer Society of America.
In a past interview with the Red Bull Music Academy, Brown spoke on how Kool & The Gang originally formed.
“[Keyboardist] Ricky West lived in the same building as me, and he introduced me to [saxophonist and musical director] Ronald Bell (Khalis Bayyan) and [trumpeter] Spike Mickens. We were a little jazz group called the Jazz Birds, and we’d play stuff like [Dave Brubeck’s] ‘Take Five,'” he said to the outlet. “By 1965-66, we were in high school and playing in clubs six nights a week. We had Alcoholic Beverage Commission cards because we were underage.”
He also revealed what made him take up drumming as a skill. “I had internal rhythm; I used to take butter knives and play on things [as a child]. Then I went down to a music store on Newark Avenue in Jersey City and took a $3 lesson from a gentleman who used to play with The Shirelles,” Brown explained. “He said, ‘Hey man, you’re a natural!’ So he gave me ‘Buddy Rich’s 16 Essential Snare Drum Rudiments’ book; I took one more lesson and never went back. It was expensive for my mom!”
Our condolences go out to George “Funky” Brown’s family, friends and loved ones.