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Kool & The Gang perform in Austin, Texas

Source: NurPhoto / Getty

It’s with sad news that we report the death of another music legend. On Saturday (August 7) Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas, founding member of soul and funk group Kool & The Gang, passed away in his New Jersey home, the band said in an announcement.

He was 70 years old. According to the statement, Thomas died “peacefully in his sleep.”

“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. 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.”

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Born in 1951 in Orlando, Florida, Thomas formed a musical act called The Jazziacs in 1964. The members consisted of brothers Ronald Bell and Robert “Kool” Bell, as well as friends Spike Mickens, Ricky Westfield, George Brown, and Charles Smith.

The group later became Kool & The Gang and history was made: Their unique mix of jazz, blues, soul and funk resonated with music fans around the world. Best known for hits such as “Get Down On It,” “Jungle Boogie” and “Celebration,” the band would go on to win a pair of Grammy Awards, seven American Music Awards, 25 top-10 R&B hits, 9 top-10 pop hits and a score of platinum albums.

 

Thomas appeared on every Kool & The Gang studio release from their debut to their forthcoming album, Perfect Union. His final live performance with the group took place on Independence Day at the Hollywood Bowl.

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