Dennis 'Dee Tee' Thomas, Kool and the Gang Co-Founder, Dies at 70
Kool and the Gang has lost a founding member of their group. Dennis "Dee Tee" Thomas has died at age 70.
On Saturday, Kool & the Gang broke the news to fans on Facebook while also paying tribute to Thomas. The statement says that Thomas died "peacefully in his sleep" in New Jersey.
"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. 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," read the statement in part. "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."
As for his final performance, the statement continued, "Dubbed 'the opening of America' by CNN, Kool and the Gang kicked off the 2021 season of the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on the 4th of July. Sadly, this was Dennis’ farewell appearance with the band."
As a member of Kool and the Gang since 1969, the musician earned numerous accolades, including two GRAMMYs and seven American Music Awards. In addition, the group was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame and in 2015, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Last year, their hit, "Celebration," was also inducted into the Library of Congress National Recording Registry.
Thomas, who was living in Montclair, New Jersey, at the time of his death, was born on Feb. 9, 1951, in Orlando, Florida. News of Thomas' death comes nearly a year after his Kool and the Gang's bandmate, Ronald 'Khalis' Bell, died at 68 at his home in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
According to the group's statement, Thomas is predeceased by his mother, Elizabeth Lee Thomas, his sister, Darlene Thomas, and his daughters, Michelle Thomas and Tracy Jackson.
He is survived by his wife, Phynjuar Saunders Thomas, daughter Tuesday Rankin, sons David and Devin Thomas, his aunt, Mary “Duggie” Jones, sisters Doris Mai McClary and Elizabeth Thomas Ross, brother Bill Mcleary, and "a host of nieces, nephews and grandchildren."
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