Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas, a founding member of the long-running soul-funk band Kool & The Gang – known for such hits as Celebration and Get Down On It – has died at the age of 70.
He died peacefully in his sleep on Saturday in New Jersey, where he was a resident of Montclair, according to a statement from his representative.
Thomas was the group’s alto sax player, flutist and percussionist, and served as master of ceremonies at the band’s shows.
His last appearance with the group was on 4 July at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.
Born February 9, 1951, in Orlando, Florida, Thomas was known for his prologue on the band’s 1971 hit, Who’s Gonna Take The Weight.
Known 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, the statement said.
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.
Kool & The Gang have earned two Grammy Awards and seven American Music Awards. They were honoured in 2014 with a Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award.
They also have seven UK top 10 singles to their name, last charting in 2003 with the Atomic Kitten collaboration Ladies’ Night.
Kool & The Gang’s music is heavily sampled and featured on film soundtracks, 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.