Kool & the Gang founding member Dennis Thomas dies aged 70

Dennis ‘Dee Tee’ Thomas, a founding member of the long-running soul-funk band Kool & the Gang died at age 70.

He passed away peacefully in his sleep on Saturday in Montclair, New Jersey, according to a statement from his representative.

Fans of Thomas and the band mourned his passing on social media.   

Dennis Thomas, pictured at a Kool & the Gang 2008 show in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, passed away on Saturday in his New Jersey residence

Dennis Thomas, pictured at a Kool & the Gang 2008 show in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, passed away on Saturday in his New Jersey residence

Dennis Thomas, pictured at a Kool & the Gang 2008 show in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, passed away on Saturday in his New Jersey residence

Kool & the Gang hit the scene in 1969 and is beloved for their classic, Celebration and Get Down On It. Thomas played the saxophone, flute and drums in the band

Kool & the Gang hit the scene in 1969 and is beloved for their classic, Celebration and Get Down On It. Thomas played the saxophone, flute and drums in the band

Kool & the Gang hit the scene in 1969 and is beloved for their classic, Celebration and Get Down On It. Thomas played the saxophone, flute and drums in the band

Thomas was the alto sax player, flutist and percussionist for the band, known for such hits as Celebration and Get Down On It.

He served as master of ceremonies at the band’s shows, making his last appearance with the group on July Fourth 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,  Thomas and his six friends created the group’s unique bland of jazz, soul and funk. 

Bandmates, from left to right, Geroge Brown, Ronald Bell, Dennis Thomas and Robert 'Kool' Bell celebrated together at the 2014 Soul Train Awards, where they won a lifetime achievement award for their work in Kool & the Gang

Bandmates, from left to right, Geroge Brown, Ronald Bell, Dennis Thomas and Robert 'Kool' Bell celebrated together at the 2014 Soul Train Awards, where they won a lifetime achievement award for their work in Kool & the Gang

Bandmates, from left to right, Geroge Brown, Ronald Bell, Dennis Thomas and Robert ‘Kool’ Bell celebrated together at the 2014 Soul Train Awards, where they won a lifetime achievement award for their work in Kool & the Gang

The bang originally came together five years before their official launch into stardom. Here they are pictured in 1970, one year into their run as Kool & the Gang

The bang originally came together five years before their official launch into stardom. Here they are pictured in 1970, one year into their run as Kool & the Gang

The bang originally came together five years before their official launch into stardom. Here they are pictured in 1970, one year into their run as Kool & the Gang

Their music is heavily sampled and featured on film sound tracks of movie classics

Their music is heavily sampled and featured on film sound tracks of movie classics

Their music is heavily sampled and featured on film sound tracks of movie classics

Thomas , left, played together with his long-time friend Robert 'Kool' Bell along musican Nile Rodgers during the 2019 Marian Anderson Award

Thomas , left, played together with his long-time friend Robert 'Kool' Bell along musican Nile Rodgers during the 2019 Marian Anderson Award

Thomas , left, played together with his long-time friend Robert ‘Kool’ Bell along musican Nile Rodgers during the 2019 Marian Anderson Award

The group’s other founders are brothers Ronald and Robert Bell, and Spike Mickens, Ricky Westfield, George Brown and Charles Smith.

The teens first called themselves the Jazziacs. They went through several iterations before settling on Kool & the Gang in 1969.

The band has earned two Grammy Awards and seven American Music Awards. They were honored in 2014 with a Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award.

Their music is heavily sampled and featured on film sound tracks, 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.

Ronald ‘Khalis’ Bell, a co-founder and singer of the group Kool & the Gang, also died at the age of 68 last year. 

Link hienalouca.com

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