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Kool & the Gang Co-Founder Claydes Charles Smith


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Kool & the Gang Co-Founder Claydes Charles Smith

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Kool & the Gang

LOS ANGELES, California -- Claydes Charles Smith, a co-founder and lead guitarist of the group, Kool & the Gang, died on Tuesday, June 20. He was 57. Smith passed away in Maplewood, New Jersey, after a long illness, his publicist David Brokaw said. The cause of death is unknown at this time .

"We've lost a member of our family, as well as an infinitely creative and gifted artist who was with the band from the very beginning," band manager Tia Sinclair said in a statement.

Kool & the Gang grew from jazz roots in the 1960s to become one of the major groups of the 1970s, blending jazz, funk, R&B and pop. After a downturn, the group enjoyed a return to stardom in the '80s.

Smith wrote the hits "Joanna" and "Take My Heart," and was a co-writer of others, including "Celebration," "Hollywood Swinging" and "Jungle Boogie." Born on September 6, 1948, in Jersey City, New Jersey, he was introduced to jazz guitar by his father in the early 1960s.

Later in that decade, he was in a group of New Jersey jazz musicians, including Ronald Bell (later Khalis Bayyan), Robert 'Kool' Bell, George Brown, Dennis Thomas and Robert 'Spike' Mickens, who became Kool & the Gang. Other members would include lead singer James 'JT' Taylor. Illness forced Smith to stop touring with the group in January.

Smith is survived by his six children, Claydes A. Smith, Justin Smith, Aaron Corbin, August Williams, Uranus Guray and Tyteen Humes and nine grandchildren.

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