Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas, co-founder and saxophonist of Kool & the Gang, died “peacefully in his sleep” in New Jersey, the legendary funk band announced on Saturday.
Thomas was 70. Further details about his death were not given.
“An original member of Kool & the Gang, Dennis was known as the quintessential cool cat in the group, loved for his hip clothes and hats, and his laid-back demeanor,” Kool & the Gang shared on its Instagram page. “A huge personality while also an extremely private person, Dennis was the alto saxophone player, flutist, percussionist as well as master of ceremonies at the band’s shows. Dennis’ prologue featured on the groups 1971 hit, ‘Who’s Gonna Take the Weight’ is legendary and an example of his showmanship.”
Thomas, the post continued, was Kool & the Gang’s “wardrobe stylist who made sure they always looked fresh.” In the act’s early days, he also “served as the ‘budget hawk,’ carrying the group’s earnings in a paper bag in the bell of his horn.”
Thomas, along with brothers Ronald “Khalis” Bell and Robert “Kool” Bell, Spike Mickens, Ricky Westfield, George Brown and Charles Smith, formed the Jazziacs in 1964. Five years later, they changed their name to Kool & the Gang and released their self-titled debut album that same year. Since then, the band earned a pair of Grammy Awards and racked up numerous hits, including “Celebration,” “Jungle Boogie” and “Ladies Night.”
Thomas, who appeared on every one of Kool & the Gang’s albums — including their upcoming 25th studio release, Perfect Union — last appeared on stage with the band during a July 4 concert at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.
Thomas’ death comes nearly a year after Ronald “Khalis” Bell’s passing last September at the age of 68.
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