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Kool & the Gang gets nod for induction into Rock Hall

Kool & the Gang, founded by Youngstown natives Robert “Kool” Bell and his younger brother Ronald Bell, is among the 15 nominees being considered for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for 2024.

The band is joined by Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Cher, Dave Matthews Band, Eric B. & Rakim, Foreigner, Peter Frampton, Jane’s Addiction, Lenny Kravitz, Oasis, Sinead O’Connor, Ozzy Osbourne, Sade and A Tribe Called Quest on the ballot, which was announced Saturday.

“Continuing in the true spirit of rock ‘n’ roll, these artists have created their own sounds that have impacted generations and influenced countless others that have followed in their footsteps,” John Sykes, chairman of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, said in a statement.

The Bell family moved from Youngstown to New Jersey when the brothers were 10 and 8 years old, and their musical careers started in New Jersey. However, in a 2023 interview with this newspaper, Robert Bell talked about how he and his brother would use paint cans as bongos as little kids. And in a 2018 interview, Ronald Bell (who died in 2020) talked about how his love of music was shaped by his father bringing home Miles Davis’ “Round About Midnight” album and listening to his Aunt Mae and his uncles playing records when he was growing up in Youngstown.

Kool & the Gang won two Grammy Awards and seven American Music Awards and had 25 top 10 R&B hits during its career. The group was honored with a BET Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014 and inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018.

In addition to its own hits, Kool & the Gang has been sampled nearly 2,000 times by other artists, making it one of the most sampled acts in music history.

Kool & the Gang was the first act selected for Youngstown’s Walk of Fame in 2023, and a ceremony was held before the band’s performance at the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre last July.

Robert Bell said in 2023 that he expected 2024 to be a big year for the band because it would be the 60th anniversary of the Jazziacs, the band that evolved into Kool & the Gang.

Those big plans now could include induction into the Rock Hall.

Ten of the 15 nominees are on the ballot for the first time, including Carey, Cher, Foreigner, Frampton, Kool & the Gang, Kravitz, Oasis, O’Connor, Osbourne and Sade. Sade, whose 1980s soft rock hits include “Smooth Operator” and “The Sweetest Taboo,” is having a moment, having last year been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Carey, with 19 No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, Blige with eight multi-platinum albums and nine Grammy Awards, and Cher — the only artist to have a No. 1 song in each of the past six decades — would help boost the number of women in the hall.

Artists must have released their first commercial recording at least 25 years before they’re eligible for induction. The induction ceremony will take place in Cleveland this fall.

Nominees will be voted on by more than 1,000 artists, historians and music industry professionals. Fans can vote online or in person at the museum, with the top five artists picked by the public making up a “fans’ ballot” that will be tallied with the other professional ballots.

Last year, Missy Elliott, Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow, Chaka Khan, “Soul Train” creator Don Cornelius, Kate Bush and the late George Michael were some of the artists who got into the hall.

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