Musician Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas, a founding member of “Get Down On It” and “Celebration” group Kool & the Gang, has died at the age of 70. An official statement posted to the soul and funk group’s Facebook page announced on August 7 that he “passed away peacefully in his sleep” in New Jersey. No cause was given. Thomas founded Kool & the Gang in 1964 along with brothers Robert “Kool” and Ronald “Khalis” Bell, as well as Robert “Spike” Mickens, Charles Smith, George Brown, and Ricky West. Over the decades, Kool & the Gang released 24 studio albums, earned two Grammys, and released multiple U.S. Billboard charting singles like “Ladies’ Night.” In 2020, “Celebration” was inducted into the Library of Congress National Recording registry.
Thomas was the group’s alto saxophonist, flutist, and MC during their high-energy live shows. He “was known as the quintessential cool cat in the group, loved for his hip clothes and hats, and his laid-back demeanor,” according to the Facebook statement. Recently, Thomas performed with Kool & the Gang at a Fourth of July concert at Los Angeles’s Hollywood Bowl. This was his final show with the group. News of Thomas’s death comes nearly a year after his bandmate, co-founding member and singer Ronald “Khalis” Bell, died at the age of 68. Thomas is survived by his wife, children, siblings, and “a host of nieces, nephews, and grandchildren.”