Kool & the Gang Co-Founder Dennis Thomas Dies at 70

"Dee Tee" was alto-saxophonist, flutist, percussionist, stylist and master of ceremonies for the band

Photo courtesy of KTFA Entertainment

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Aug 9, 2021

Dennis "Dee Tee" Thomas — a founding member of renowned soul-funk group Kool & the Gang — has died. He was 70.

On August 7, Thomas is said to have "passed away peacefully in his sleep" at his home in Montclair, NJ. Further information about his cause of death has yet to be revealed.

Born February 9, 1951, in Orland, FL, Thomas co-founded Kool & the Gang — initially called Jazziacs — in 1964 with brothers Robert "Kool" and Ronald "Khalis" Bell and their friends George Brown, Charles Smith, Ricky Westfield and Spike Mickens.

Thomas played alto saxophone, flute and percussion, alongside being the band's stylist and master of ceremonies during their live shows. He was known for being the group's "quintessential cool cat," as well as for his memorable prologue to the collective's 1971 hit "Who's Gonna Take the Weight."

Kool & the Gang have won two Grammys and seven American Music Awards, alongside a Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award. The jazz-fusion outfit flourished in the '70s and '80s with singles like "Celebration," "Ladies' Night" and "Get Down on It."

Thomas' last appearance with Kool & the Gang was in Los Angeles this past July 4 at the Hollywood Bowl.

He's survived by his wife, Phynjuar Saunders, sons David and Devon Thomas, and daughter Tuesday Rankin.

See the band's full statement on Thomas' passing below.

Fellow Kool & the Gang co-founder Ronald "Khalis" Bell died last September.

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