Kool & the Gang founding member Dennis ‘Dee Tee’ Thomas dies, aged 70

9 August 2021, 09:51 | Updated: 11 August 2021, 10:15

Dennis Thomas
Dennis Thomas. Picture: Getty

By Mayer Nissim

Dee Tee played saxophone, flute and percussion in the band and was also its MC at live shows.

Kool & the Gang founding member Dennis ‘Dee Tee’ Thomas has died at the age of 70.

The group announced on Facebook on Saturday (August 7) that Thomas had died "peacefully in his sleep" in New Jersey.

"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 post read.

Read more: Kool & the Gang's 10 greatest songs ever

"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."

It continued: "Dennis' prologue featured on the groups 1971 hit, 'Who's Gonna Take the Weight' is legendary and an example of his showmanship.

"Dee Tee was the group's wardrobe stylist who made sure they always looked fresh. 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."

In 1964, Dee Tee joined forces with Robert 'Kool' Bell, Robert Mickens, Charles Smith, George Brown, Ricky Westfield, and his brother Ronald, who died last year aged 68.

After various name changes, the group launched as Kool & the Gang in 1964 with the release of their self-titled debut album.

Their earlier singles included 'Jungle Boogie and 'Hollywood Swinging', and after they added singer James 'JT' Taylor, they had another run of hits, including 'Ladies' Night', 'Celebration', 'Get Down on It', 'Joanna', 'Misled' and 'Cherish'.

As well as two Grammy Awards and seven American Music Awards, the group also have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and its members were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.