Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas, co-founder of Kool & the Gang band has passed away at the age of 70.
A statement from his representative revealed that Thomas died peacefully in his sleep Saturday in New Jersey.
Before he death, he was the alto sax player, flutist and percussionist.
He also served as master of ceremonies at the band’s shows.
His last appearance with the group was July Fourth at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.
Born Feb. 9, 1951, in Orlando, Florida, Thomas was known for his prologue on the band’s 1971 hit, “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight.”
Known for his hip clothes and hats, he was also the group’s wardrobe stylist.
In the early days, Thomas served as their “budget hawk,” carrying their earnings in a paper bag stuffed into the bell of his horn, the statement said.
In 1964, seventeen friends created the group’s unique bland of jazz, soul and funk, at first calling 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, and Spike Mickens, Ricky Westfield, George Brown and Charles Smith.
The band became one of the era’s most popular and influential with hits such as ‘Celebration’ and ‘Get Down On It’.
His band has also 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.”
He is survived wife, Phynjuar Saunders Thomas, daughter Tuesday Rankin and sons David Thomas and Devin Thomas.
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