Kool & the Gang Return to ‘Funky Philly’ to Receive Prestigious Award

Amid a celebration the 50th anniversary of their debut album, Kool & the Gang will receive the 2019 Marian Anderson Award in November.


6.7.19: Philadelphia – (Culture): “This is going to be fun,” exclaimed Mr. Bill Jolly, when I asked about his thoughts on the 2019 Marian Anderson Award Gala and Concert, which this year will honor R&B group Kool & the Gang.

An award-winning producer and keyboardist, Mr. Jolly is in his seventh year of serving as the Musical Director for the annual November star-studded show, which takes place at the ornate Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts on Broad and Spruce Street.

This year’s honorees have animated the maestro, maybe more so than usual.

Kool & the Gang’s ‘Hollywood Swinging’ was one of the first songs a young Mr. Jolly attempted to learn. One of his favorite albums is Light of Worlds, which the group released in 1974. And when Kool & the Gang recorded in Philadelphia once upon a time, Mr. Jolly says he got to hang with them in the studio.

(From L to R): Willa Hightower, Chairwoman of the Marian Anderson Award, Gregory Murphy, Interim Executive Director, Marian Anderson Award, Lady Alma, an internationally acclaimed artist who will be a feature performer at the 2019 Marian Anderson Award, Billy Jolly, Musical Director, and Dyana Williams, journalist and radio personality. Photo Credit: Christopher “Flood the Drummer” Norris – ©2019

(From L to R): Willa Hightower, Chairwoman of the Marian Anderson Award, Gregory Murphy, Interim Executive Director, Marian Anderson Award, Lady Alma, an internationally acclaimed artist who will be a feature performer at the 2019 Marian Anderson Award, Billy Jolly, Musical Director, and Dyana Williams, journalist and radio personality. Photo Credit: Christopher “Flood the Drummer” Norris – ©2019

“I’m a deep fan,” Mr. Jolly told me late Wednesday morning at a press conference where the news was announced.

This year’s awarding of the legendary group, which formed in Jersey City, New Jersey, will be equally special for the performers, who in 2019 are celebrating the 50th anniversary of their self-titled, debut album, Kool & the Gang.

Since 1969, Kool and the Gang has earned two Grammy Awards, seven American Music Awards, and 31 gold and platinum albums. The group also has a legacy of charitable involvement: participating with Live Aid in 1985, a longtime involvement with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and donating to several causes.

“Kool & the Gang’s profound success over the last five decades combined with their philanthropic spirit makes them the obvious and well-deserving recipient of the year’s Marian Anderson Award,” said Willa Hightower, chairwoman of the Marian Anderson Award.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said Kool & the Gang embodies all that Marian Anderson represented.

“I cannot think of a group more deserving of this prestigious honor,” the mayor said.

In a statement, Kool & Gang responded to the news:

“We are truly honored. Philadelphia played such an integral part in our early career. We would not be where we are without the city of Philadelphia, or as we called it back in the day, ‘Funky Philly.’ It’s where we recorded several of our albums and where radio and fans really had our back.”

The Marian Anderson Award Gala and Concert, which is sponsored by Wells Fargo, PECO and Comcast, will occur on the evening of November 12, 2019. In the words of Kool & the Gang, it’s a celebration!

Thanks for reading! Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® and I’m Drumming for Justice!™

Author’s bio: Christopher “Flood the Drummer®” Norris is an award-winning journalist, online content producer and professional drummer currently serving as the CEO of Techbook Online, a Philadelphia-based news and event company, and the host of the Drumming for Justice podcast. Subscribe here.

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