James "J.T." Taylor

The lead singer for Kool & the Gang from 1979 to 1988, James "J.T." Taylor presided over the group's commercial -- if not artistic -- peak of the early to mid-'80s, later moving on to a solo career. Born August 16, 1953, Taylor joined Kool & the Gang at a point when the pioneering funk band was beginning to lose steam amidst the rise of disco. Five years after their last hit, the group enlisted both producer Eumir Deodato and Taylor and re-entered the Top Ten in 1979 with the decidedly disco-slanted "Ladies Night," a track which topped the R&B charts. The following year, Kool & the Gang delivered its first number one hit on the pop charts, "Celebration." Although Top Ten placements were frequent from 1982 through 1987, Taylor left the band for a solo career in 1988, thanks in large part to the success. (One monument to his impact with Kool & the Gang is that the group recruited three people to replace him -- Skip Martin, Gary Brown, and Odeen Mays.)