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High Five: Robert ‘Kool’ Bell

What counts in music today

Silvia Mautner

Robert “Kool’’ Bell was as surprised as everyone else when Van Halen asked veteran funk-soul-pop hitmakers Kool & the Gang to be the openers for its current tour, which hits the TD Garden on Sunday night. As suspected, it was VH frontman David Lee Roth’s master plan to have the purveyors of wedding reception staples like “Celebration’’ (as well as funkier hits like “Misled’’) get the party started. We recently chatted with Bell (below, third from left) about five ways the “Too Hot’’ Gang matches up with the “Hot for Teacher’’ quartet.

1. Bell says Roth told him during recent tour rehearsals that Van Halen used to cover Kool & the Gang songs in its early years, including “Jungle Boogie.’’ “I couldn’t believe it,’’ he says with a laugh.


2. Kool & the Gang played hootenannies at Café Wha? in the ’60s, which was owned by Roth’s uncle. “People like Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor came through there. We got paid in potato chips and turkey sandwiches.’’

3. Eddie Van Halen is a fan of KATG guitarist Shawn McQuiller, whom he saw in a previous project with Bret Michaels of Poison. “Now he’s with us and playing with Van Halen.’’

4. Their popular lead singers - Roth and KATG’s James “J.T.’’ Taylor - both departed in the mid-’80s for solo careers.

5. “David Lee said to me, ‘Sixty percent of our fan base is ladies, and you guys wrote the song ‘Ladies Night.’ We were the party rock band of the ’80s and you were the party funk band of the ’80s. It makes sense to me. Let’s go out and have a party, man!’ ’’

Kool & the Gang opens for Van Halen on Sunday at TD Garden at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $47-$147 at 800-745-3000 or