Kool and the Gang’s Dennis ‘Dee Tee’ Thomas died on Saturday at age 70. The legendary funk group was a sensation in the 1970s and early 80s. Their songs, including ‘Celebration’ were very popular in the rap world and have featured on major motion picture soundtracks. Dee Tee made his last appearance with the group on July 4 at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.
In a statement his surviving bandmates put out on the group’s Facebook page, calling the co-founder as “the quintessential cool cat in the group, loved for his hip clothes and hats, and his laid-back demeanor.”
Dennis was born on February 9, 1951, in Orlando, Florida. He was married to Phynjuar Saunders Thomas and was a long-time resident of Montclair, NJ.
Thomas and his friends, brothers Robert and Ronald Bell, George Brown, Robert Mickens, Charles Smith, and Ricky Westfield founded the group under the name the Jazziacs in 1964 in New Jersey.
The group changed its name to Kool and the Gang in 1969 and produced hits like ‘Get down on it’, ‘Jungle Boogie’ and ‘Ladies’ Night’. Major motion picture roped them in for their soundtracks including the hits like “Rocky,” “Saturday Night Fever” and “Pulp Fiction.”
The band’s songs have been heavily sampled, including A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, Jay-Z, Nas, NWA, Snoop Dogg, Tupac Shakur, and The Wu-Tang Clan.
The band bagged two Grammy Awards and seven American Music Awards. The band was honored with a Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014.
The DJ’s still play their songs during the events. One of the group’s other co-founders, Ronald Bell, died last year.
“Dennis was the alto saxophone player, flutist, percussionist as well as master of ceremonies at the band’s shows. 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,” wrote the group members on the Facebook Page.