Dennis Thomas, founding member of Kool & the Gang, dies aged 70

Dennis Thomas, founding member of Kool & the Gang, dies aged 70

Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas, a founding member of the long-running soul-funk band Kool & the Gang, known for such hits as Celebration and Get Down On It, has died.

He was 70 years old.

He died peacefully in his sleep on Saturday in New Jersey, where he was a resident of Montclair, according to a statement from his representative.

Thomas was the alto sax player, flutist and percussionist. He served as master of ceremonies at the band’s shows and his last appearance with the group was on the Fourth ofJuly at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.

Born on 9 February 1951, in Orlando, Florida, Thomas was known for his prologue on the band’s 1971 hit Who’s Gonna Take the Weight.

Popular for his hip clothes and hats, he was also the group’s wardrobe stylist. In the early days, he served as their “budget hawk”, carrying their earnings in a paper bag stuffed into the bell of his horn, the statement said.

In 1964, seven teen 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 the brothers Ronald and Robert Bell, and Spike Mickens, Ricky Westfield, George Brown and Charles Smith.

The band has earned two Grammy Awards and seven American Music Awards. They were honored in 2014 with a Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award.

Their music is heavily sampled and featured on film sound tracks, including those for Rocky, Saturday Night Fever and Pulp Fiction.

Among those Thomas is survived by are his wife, Phynjuar Saunders Thomas, daughter Tuesday Rankin and sons David Thomas and Devin Thomas.