Kool and The Gang's Dennis 'Dee Tee' Thomas dies aged 70

The saxophone player and flautist made his farewell appearance with the group at a Los Angeles concert on July 4

Dennis "Dee Tee" Thomas, a co-founder of the legendary soul-funk band Kool and The Gang, whose hits included Celebration, died on Saturday aged 70, the group announced.

Thomas, "beloved husband, father and a co-founder of Kool and The Gang, passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 70 in New Jersey," a Facebook statement from the group read.

Another founding member, Ronald Bell, died in 2020.

"An original member of Kool and The Gang, Dennis was known as the quintessential cool cat in the group, loved for his hip clothes and hats, and his laid-back demeanour," his bandmates wrote.

"Alto saxophone player, flautist, percussionist as well as master of ceremonies at the band's shows", he made his farewell appearance with the group on July 4 at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, the statement added.

Kool and The Gang became a major player in the 1970s, pumping out hits like Get Down On It, Jungle Boogie and Ladies' Night, with its brassy funk putting the band in a class with Earth, Wind & Fire, The Isley Brothers and Sly and the Family Stone.

Brothers Robert and Ronald Bell, along with friends Thomas, Robert Mickens, Charles Smith, George Brown and Ricky West, founded the group in 1964 in New Jersey, first under the name the Jazziacs.

The long-running group fused jazz, soul and funk.

Thomas was the group's stylist, making sure they "always looked fresh," the group said.

"In the band's early days, Dennis also served as the 'budget hawk', carrying the group's earnings in a paper bag in the bell of his horn."

Kool and The Gang was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018.

The band remains a DJ favourite and is heavily sampled especially in the rap world, their tracks appearing in songs by artists including Jay-Z, Nas, NWA, 2Pac, Wu-Tang Clan, Snoop Dogg, A Tribe Called Quest and Busta Rhymes.

Updated: August 8th 2021, 5:29 AM
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