Song of the Week

EHSDA Song of the Week: Too Hot

The weather around the U.S. has been heating up in recent weeks, which means hotter working conditions. On June 20, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board approved an indoor heat standard to protect indoor workers from heat illness. Appropriately, the Song of the Week is Kool & the Gang’s smooth 1979 R&B hit “Too Hot.”

The group got its start as high school friends led by Robert “Kool” Bell in New Jersey in 1964; they were the Jazziacs, playing instrumental soul and jazz covers. Over the next few years, the group had a few name changes before settling on Kool & the Gang in 1969. After some early jazz and soul instrumental albums, the band added vocals and started to play funkier songs. In 1973, Kool & the Gang had hits with “Funky Stuff,” “Jungle Boogie” and “Hollywood Swinging,” the latter two going top 10 on the pop charts.

In the years that followed, the band tried to jump on the disco craze but didn’t have a lot of success with it. In 1979, the group changed its sound by adding singer James “J.T.” Taylor (no relation to the other JT) and working with Brazilian producer Eumir Deodato. The result was more commercial and smoother sounding, with Taylor bringing the ability to sing ballads to the group.

“Too Hot” was on the first album with Taylor and Deodato, 1979’s Ladies’ Night. A midtempo lament about a pair of high school sweethearts who eventually split up, the song went to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #3 on the R&B chart. “Too Hot” coupled with the title track resulted in the album going platinum.

Kool & the Gang went on to have a string of hits in the 1980s, including “Celebration,” “Joanna,” “Emergency,” “Cherish” and “Fresh.” The hits slowed down in the ’90s, with the band having numerous lineup changes and releasing six albums since 1992. But they’ve continued to tour periodically, playing their many hits all over the world.

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