Claydes Charles Smith, 57; Co-Founder of ‘70s Group Kool & the Gang

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Claydes Charles Smith, 57, a co-founder and lead guitarist of the group Kool & the Gang, died Tuesday in Maplewood, N.J., after a long illness, publicist David Brokaw said. The cause of death was not announced.

Kool & the Gang grew from jazz roots in the 1960s to become a popular musical group of the 1970s, blending jazz, funk, R&B; and pop. After a downturn, the group enjoyed a return to success in the ‘80s.

Smith, who was known as Charles Smith, wrote the hits “Joanna” and “Take My Heart,” and was a co-writer of others, including “Celebration,” “Hollywood Swinging” and “Jungle Boogie.”

Born Sept. 6, 1948, in Jersey City, N.J., Smith was introduced to jazz guitar by his father in the early 1960s. Later that decade he was in a group of New Jersey jazz musicians -- including Ronald Bell, Robert “Kool” Bell, George Brown, Dennis Thomas and Robert “Spike” Mickens -- who became Kool & the Gang. Other members would include lead singer James “J.T.” Taylor.


Illness forced Smith to stop touring with the group in January.