Robert ‘Kool’ Bell’s Star Shines in Ceremony

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Robert “Kool” Bell came full circle with his roots on Saturday when he became the first star on the new Youngstown Wall of Fame.

At a ceremony in the community room of Covelli Centre, Mayor Jamael Tito Brown bestowed the key to the city to Bell.

An actual star-shaped plaque with Bell’s name is being manufactured and will be mounted on the Wall of Fame, which will be erected this summer along the walkway in Wean Park, downtown.

Bell and his landmark R&B party-funk band were in town Saturday to play a concert at The Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre.

The 72-year-old was born in Youngstown in 1950 and lived with his family, including his younger brother Ronald, on the East Side. When Bell was 10, his family moved to Jersey City, New Jersey, where he started his first band while in high school.

Bell was pleased with the honor Saturday, as he posed for photos with well-wishers at the Wall of Fame ceremony. “It means a lot,” he said.

Robert “Kool” Bell was born in Youngstown in 1950.

He and his band received a star on the famed Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2015, but the local honor means more, he said.

“When I left here and went to New Jersey in 1960, I didn’t know there would be a Kool & the Gang,” he said. After several years of playing in Jersey City, Kool & The Gang released its first record in 1969.

The band has since sold over 70 million albums worldwide, producing timeless hits like “Celebration,” “Too Hot,” “Fresh” and “Jungle Boogie.” It has earned two Grammy Awards, seven American Music Awards, 25 Top Ten R&B hits, nine Top Ten Pop hits and 31 gold and platinum albums. 

It has also become the most sampled band  of all time, according to its press site.

The band has been together and performing for over four decades. It will release its latest album, “People Just Want to Have Fun,” on July 14.

Bell’s younger brother, Ronald “Khalis” Bell, who was also a founding member of the band, died in 2020.

The artist has been back to Youngstown several times over the years. Because of his whirlwind day on Saturday, he said he had not yet had a chance to drive around and reacquaint himself with his hometown.

“Maybe tomorrow,” he said.

The Youngstown Wall of Fame was announced earlier this week.  When it is constructed, each star will have a QR code that will allow visitors to scan and then read about the star’s connection to the city.

The city is forming a committee to accept and consider nominees for future stars on the Wall of Fame, which will also be getting its own page on the city’s official website. Nomination forms and other information will be on the website, said Melanie Clarke-Penella, the city’s special events coordinator.

The Wall of Fame will honor Youngstown natives and residents who made a mark in the fields of entertainment, sports, film and science, she said.

The stars will be mounted on a wall that will add to the attractiveness of Wean Park, Clarke-Penella said. The park is already the site of the Jackie Robinson and George “Shotgun” Shuba statue of the two baseball players famed handshake.

Pictured at top: Mayor Jamael Tito Brown, Councilman Julius Oliver and Robert “Kool” Bell pose for a photo at Saturday’s ceremony.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.