Kool & The Gang has 12 top 10 singles, including hits like "Jungle Boogie," "Get Down On It" and "Celebration," which went all the way to number 1 — and Thursday, they scored a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The band's had a huge influence on culture, including claiming to be the most sampled group in hip-hop. They formed in 1964 as a jazz instrumental group, transitioned to funk and R&B and, 51 years later, the core of the band remains together. Here are those top 10 songs that made them household names.
Jungle Boogie — 1973
The band hadn't hired the iconic lead vocalist who led most of their hits when "Jungle Boogie" topped the charts — it featured spoken vocals from the band's roadie, back when the band was transitioning from instrumental jazz into funk. It has a raw visceral energy — and probably some lewd connotations — that made it a chart-topper.
Hollywood Swinging — 1974
This song has been widely sampled, most famously in DJ Kool's "Let Me Clear My Throat," as well as in Mase's "Feel So Good." (Hey, remember when we all loved Mase?) It still has the loose feel of "Jungle Boogie," more of a jam than a mainstream pop song. It was the first Kool & The Gang song to go to number 1 on the R&B chart.
Ladies' Night — 1979
This song marked another number 1 on the R&B chart, and while they had charted in the interim, was their biggest hit since "Hollywood Swinging." It was the band's first hit song with new lead singer James "J.T." Taylor, who sang with the group through their most successful period before going solo in 1988. The song also re-entered pop culture decades later through a prominent performance in Adam Sandler's "The Wedding Singer" by Jon Lovitz as a sleazy wedding singer competitor.
Too Hot — 1979
Their first big hit to be more chilled out, coming off the same album as "Ladies' Night." The album, named after that song, went to #1 on the R&B charts and became the band's first platinum album.
Celebration — 1980
The band dropped "Celebration," a party mainstay for the last 35 years and one that probably lands on the playlists of a looooot of weddings. It was the band's biggest song, and the album "Celebrate!" was also their only top 10 aolbum. The band told Variety that the song was inspired by a combination of wins at the American Music Awards with a scripture reading about praising God.
"We had won the American Music Award — we had won a couple of them that evening — and it was sort of a celebration because it was a great night for us," said percussionist George Brown. "We were on a tour bus and we started to come up with the idea for the song. It wasn’t contrived for weddings and bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs."
Get Down On It — 1981
"Get Down On It," which went to number 10 in the U.S., is one of the best examples of the party music the band is best known for, as well as showing their influences from jazz to funk. Its music video looks like someone who got a video editing machine and just really wanted to push the buttons for cool effects, but it feels perfectly of its time and its groove continues to power non-"Celebration" celebrations.
Joanna — 1983
Another ballad, this was their first music video that wasn't just about the band playing together. It's a funk ballad delivered as a love song to the owner of a roadside cafe, coming as the MTV era was taking off.
Fresh — 1984
This song's lasting cultural impact may be introducing the wider culture to the idea of using the word "fresh" in a slang way, according to the book "Totally Awesome 80s." The video offers an '80s interpretation of the story of Cinderella, with Kool & The Gang performing at a ball and a cast including a Cinderella and a couple of ugly stepsisters.
Misled — 1984
This song shares the moody vibe of '80s songs like Rockwell's "Somebody's Watching Me," with a video featuring a ghostly dancer that also seems to draw some inspiration from "Thriller."
Cherish — 1985
Off the same album as "Fresh," this brought a different sound than most of us think of from the group. The soft-rock ballad came in the mid-'80s as funk had faded from the pop consciousness. The video set on a beach, with some wonderful '80s sweaters — and hair — was part of the package that took this song to number 2. It was only stopped by the iconic MTV song with the early CGI video "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits. Like "Celebration," it's a wedding staple, but coming from an opposite angle.
Victory — 1986
A song that didn't have the lasting impact of some of the band's earlier catalog, it has a softer funk sound while also focusing on introducing its own dance moves in the music video. They'd moved solidly into adult contemporary by this point, with their album "Forever" bearing a title indicating a belief that their success just may not be forever.
Stone Love — 1987
Kool & The Gang's last top 10 hit — also their last top 40 hit — has a sound that seems to have some of the Prince feel and a style trying to advance with the times. Kool & The Gang made a lot of advancements, but they didn't manage to advance into music's next era when it came to hitmaking — this was also their last hit with lead singer James "J.T." Taylor before he left for his solo career.
What's your favorite Kool & The Gang song? Do you have any strong memories associated with their music? Let us know in the comments.