Dennis Thomas, founding member of American band Kool & the Gang, dies
Dennis ‘Dee Tee’ Thomas, founder of the legendary funk band Kool & the Gang, has died aged 70
Dennis ‘Dee Tee’ Thomas, one of the founding members of the legendary R&B group Kool & the Gang, died Saturday in his sleep, according to a statement from the group. He was 70 years of age.
“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… 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,” the band said in a statement posted to Facebook.
Musician Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas, a co-founder of the legendary funk band Kool & the Gang, has died at the age of 70.
A statement posted to the group’s official Facebook page announced that Thomas “passed away peacefully in his sleep” on August 7, in New Jersey. No cause of death was given in the statement.
“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,” the statement read. “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.”
Thomas founded Kool & the Gang in 1964 alongside several teenage friends, including brothers Robert “Kool” and Ronald “Khalis” Bell, Robert “Spike” Mickens, Charles Smith, George Brown, and Ricky West. The group was initially named The Jazziacs and went through several iterations before settling on Kool & the Gang.
Over the decades, the group released 25 studio albums, earned two Grammys, seven American Music Awards, and 25 Top Ten R&B hits.
The group’s mix of funk and jazz arrangements has become one of the popular, influential, and heavily sampled sounds in contemporary music and has been featured in several film soundtracks, including “Saturday Night Fever,” “Rocky,” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction.”
Some of the group’s most popular singles include “Ladies Night,” “Get Down On It,” and “Celebration,” which was inducted into the Library of Congress National Recording registry last year. In 2014, the group was awarded the Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award and received a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame the following year.
They are also included in installations at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and the Grammy Museum in New Jersey.
Earlier this year, Thomas performed with Kool & the Gang at a 4th of July concert at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. This was his last performance with the group. He is survived by his wife, Phynjuar Saunders Thomas, three children, and “and a host of nieces, nephews, and grandchildren.”
Thomas, born Feb. 9, 1951, in Orlando, Florida.
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Kool & the Gang co-founder Dennis Thomas dead at age 70
Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas, a founding member of the long-running soul-funk band Kool & the Gang, has died. He was 70.
A statement from his representative says Thomas died peacefully in his sleep Saturday in New Jersey, where he was a resident of Montclair.
The soul-funk band is known for such hits as “Celebration” and “Get Down On It.”
Thomas’ last appearance with the group was on the Fourth of July at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.
Thomas was the alto sax player, flutist and percussionist.
He served as master of ceremonies at the band’s shows. In 1964, seven teen 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.
Kool & the Gang is an American band formed in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1964 by brothers Robert “Kool” Bell and Ronald Bell, with Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas, Robert “Spike” Mickens, Charles Smith, George Brown, and Ricky West. They have undergone numerous changes in personnel and have explored many musical styles throughout their history, including jazz, soul, funk, rock, and pop music. After settling on their name following several changes, the group signed to De-Lite Records and released their debut album, Kool and the Gang (1969).