Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas, a founding member of the long-running soul-funk band Kool & the Gang known for hits such as ‘Celebration’ and ‘Get Down On It’, has died, aged 70.
Gatekeepers News reports that Thomas died peacefully in his sleep on Saturday in New Jersey, where he was a resident of Montclair.
The deceased was the alto sax player, flutist and percussionist who served as master of ceremonies at the band’s shows.
Thomas’ last appearance with the group was July 4th at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.
Born Feb. 9, 1951, in Orlando, Florida, Thomas was popular for his prologue on the band’s 1971 hit, “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight.”
The deceased was 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.
Gatekeepers News reports that the group’s unique bland of jazz, soul and funk, was created in 1964 by 17 friends who initially called 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, Spike Mickens, Ricky Westfield, George Brown and Charles Smith.
The band has earned two Grammy Awards and seven American Music Awards. They were honoured in 2014 with a Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award. Their music is heavily sampled and featured on film soundtracks, including those for “Rocky,” “Saturday Night Fever” and “Pulp Fiction.”
Thomas is survived by his wife, Phynjuar Saunders Thomas; daughter Tuesday Rankin; and sons David Thomas and Devin Thomas.