In 2019, Kool & the Gang celebrated its 50th anniversary in the music biz. With 70 million records sold worldwide and a catalogue of hits that remain fixtures on radio stations today, the band has no plans to slow down.

The genesis of the group dates back to 1969 when brothers Ronald and Robert “Kool” Bell joined up with some neighborhood friends in New Jersey and created a unique musical blend of jazz, soul and funk.

The group’s self-titled 1969 debut album introduced its signature instrumental sound and fierce horn arrangements, and spawned their first Billboard R&B charted single, Kool & the Gang. They would add vocalist James “J.T.” Taylor to the mix for the follow-up and that’s when the hit singles started to come one after another.

Between “Celebration,” “Cherish” and Jungle Boogie,” Kool & the Gang tunes have been part of the soundtrack of the lives of many of us for decades.

Today, the Bell brothers remain with the group and continue to tour with some of the best funk musicians (George Brown and Dennis Thomas) in the country. On Jan. 3, Kool & the Gang will perform at the Palace Theatre, starting 2020 off with a bang. Keith Loria spoke with Ronald Bell about the show.

Keith Loria: You marked 50 years in the business in 2019. How was it celebrating that milestone all year long?

Ronald Bell: It was great. We’re so grateful and humble. I had no idea we’d still be doing this 50 years later and we’re thankful with all the accolades that have been coming. We’re waiting on the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and whatever else the Lord has planned for us.

KL: You said you didn’t think you would still be doing this. When you first started in 1969, what did you hope to accomplish with the group?

RB: I just wanted to play music. I wanted to be like the great jazz musicians, like John Coltrane or Miles Davis or Otis Redding. I had no idea we would be in the company of greats like that 50 years later.

KL: What do you have in store for the fans coming out to Stamford to see you at the Palace Theatre?

RB: No matter where we are, it’s all about the consistency — a good time, some good music and good memories.

KL: You can’t go to a wedding or party without hearing at least one of your songs. Why do you think people love them so much and what has helped them stand the test of time?

RB: You would have to ask the fans. What I think is we just gathered a lot of the traditions from the artists who inspired us and we just kept it going. It’s all about inspiration.

KL: Your shows are always full of people from different generations. How does it make you feel to know that people continue to bring their kids and grandkids to these shows?

RB: I’m honored. It’s flattering to all of us. We are just making music and it’s gratifying to see that from 8 to 80 people are still listening to us and smiling and having a good time.

KL: I understand you have some new music in the works. Why is it still important for Kool & the Gang to put out new material?

RB: I make music so people can enjoy it. We’re musicians and constantly writing and producing, and although people want you to stick with what you did, and radio stations only really want to play your old stuff, it’s important to us to come out with new music. I’ve never stopped writing and have over 300 songs that people have never heard. It’s about the joy.

KL: How has your joy on the stage evolved over the years? Do you still get the same feeling of satisfaction today than you did 10, 20, 30 years ago?

RB: The audiences are bigger now but for me, it’s still the same. You still have to deliver. I’m thankful I can do what I love and people appreciate it and enjoy it, and there’s a synergy of that going back and forth from the stage.

KL: You and your brother have performed together for a long time. What’s the secret to your relationship?

RB: I attribute that to my mom. She raised us and never separated us and told us that brothers needed to stick together, whatever you do. We grew up together like Irish twins and have always been together and there’s no need to separate now.

KL: What do you credit with 50 years in the business?

RB: Understanding the business side of it as well as the creative side. The business part was a learning process for us, and we had a master class. People love our music, whether we are in Japan or Russia or the U.S., music crosses all barriers and even if people don’t know the language, they will know the lyrics to our songs and that’s a wonderful feeling. We want to thank our fans for supporting us all these years and we’ll be keeping the funk alive.

KL: With 50 years now behind you, what can we expect in 2020?

RB: We’ll be embarking on this new album, “Perfect Vision,” looking back and forward. We’re also doing an animated series of the group’s life and history, starting with when we were teenagers. It’s telling our stories like a documentary, but animated. We’re working on a deal now to get it out there.