Dennis Thomas death: Kool & the Gang co-founder dies aged 70

Musician died peacefully in his sleep over the weekend

Ellie Harrison
Saturday 07 August 2021 20:16 BST
Dennis Thomas
Dennis Thomas (Larry Marano/Shutterstock)

Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas, a founding member of the long-running soul-funk band Kool & the Gang, has died aged 70.

He died peacefully in his sleep on Saturday (7 August) in New Jersey, where he was a resident of Montclair, according to a statement from his representative.

Thomas was the alto sax player, flutist and percussionist in the band known for tracks such as “Celebration” and “Get Down On It”. He served as master of ceremonies at the band's shows. His last appearance with the group was July Fourth at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.

The Florida-born star was known for his prologue on the band's 1971 hit, “Who's Gonna Take the Weight”. Famous for his hip clothes and hats, he was also the group's wardrobe stylist. In the early days, he served as their “budget hawk”, carrying their earnings in a paper bag stuffed into the bell of his horn.

In 1964, seven teenage friends created the group's unique bland of jazz, soul and funk, at first calling themselves the Jazziacs. They went through several iterations before settling on Kool & the Gang in 1969. The group's other founders are brothers Ronald and Robert Bell, and Spike Mickens, Ricky Westfield, George Brown and Charles Smith.

The band has earned two Grammy Awards and seven American Music Awards. They were honoured in 2014 with a Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award. Their music is heavily sampled and featured on film sound tracks, including those for “Rocky”, “Saturday Night Fever” and “Pulp Fiction”.

Among those Thomas is survived by are his wife, Phynjuar Saunders Thomas, daughter Tuesday Rankin and sons David Thomas and Devin Thomas.

Additional reporting by AP

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