Dennis Thomas, 70, has died after passing away “peacefully” in his sleep, his rep confirmed. He was the alto sax player, flutist and percussionist of the group, and also served as master of ceremonies at the band’s shows.
Kool and the Gang’s official Facebook page also shared the sad news, writing in a statement: “On August 7,2021, Dennis Thomas (known as “Dee Tee”), beloved husband, father and a co-founder of Kool & The Gang, passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 70 in New Jersey.”
The statement continued: “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 demeanour.”
Dennis joined brothers Robert ‘Kool’ Bell and Ronald Bell to form the funk band in 1964 while in high school.
Over the course of his nearly-60-year career, he played on every Kool & The Gang studio album, including their 25th album Perfect Union, which comes out later this month.
The band’s statement went on: “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.”
They added: “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.”
Kool & the Gang were formed in 1964, when seven teen friends created their unique blend of jazz, soul and funk.
Their original name was the Jazziacs, before switching to the name that made them famous.
The band has earned two Grammy Awards and seven American Music Awards.
Heartbroken fans rushed to pay tribute to the late star after news of his death broke.
One typed: “My deepest condolences to Dee Tee’s wife and family and also to the rest of the band.”
“Such sad news that his journey in this life is over. I have grown up with Kool and the Gang’s music it’s part of who I am,” typed a second.
While a third wrote: “He will be missed by so many people. Thank you Dennis for helping to create Kool and the gang and for giving us so much brilliant music to enjoy. Rest well now and know you will never be forgotten.”
‘RIP Mr. Thomas. Kool and the Gang music is part of my musical DNA,” another shared.
A fifth remarked: “At 16 years old the DJ dropped the needle on the record Hollywood Swingin. It made it a magical moment. RIP Mr. Thomas and to the family, God bless you.”
The Kool and The Gang members became household names with timeless hits Ladies’ Night, Celebration and Get Down On it.
They didn’t just command chart success, the stars also achieved more than 30 gold and platinum albums.
Thomas last played with the band on July 4, appearing at the Hollywood Bowl in LA.
He is survived by his wife Phynjuar Saunders Thomas, their daughter, Tuesday Rankin, sons David Thomas and Devin Thomas, and a host of nieces, nephews and grandchildren.