Joe Gill/The Express-Times/AP
Dennis Thomas, seen here performing in 2008 at a Kool and the Gang concert in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Kool & the Gang co-founder Dennis Thomas, often referred to as “Dee Tee,” has died. He was 70 years old.
Thomas passed away in his sleep in New Jersey on Saturday, according to a statement posted to the Grammy Award-winning band’s verified Facebook page. Born in Orlando, Florida, Thomas was a longtime resident of Montclair, New Jersey, the band said in its in memoriam post.
Thomas, “known as the quintessential cool cat in the group, loved for his hip clothes and hats, and his laid-back demeanor,” is survived by his wife, daughter, and two sons, the statement said.
Along with his long list of instrumental talents as a saxophone player, flutist, and percussionist, he was also in charge of styling the R&B group and was the “master of ceremonies” at their shows, according to the statement.
Known for classics like “Celebration,” “Jungle Boogie,” and “Cherish,” Kool & the Gang bill themselves as having performed “longer than any R&B group in history.”
Kool & the Gang recently took part in CNN’s “Fourth in America” special programming to celebrate the reopening of the US in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Dubbed ‘the opening of America’ by CNN, Kool & the Gang kicked off the 2021 season of the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on the 4th of July,” the statement read. “Sadly, this was Dennis’ farewell appearance with the band.”
CNN has reached out to the band’s representatives for additional comment.
Formed by brothers Robert “Kool” Bell and Ronald Bell, Kool & the Gang has earned numerous awards and Top Ten hits. The band’s accolades include one Grammy award and three Grammy nominations, according to the award’s web site, and five American Music Awards, according to the award’s web site. In addition, it had 25 Top Ten R&B hits and nine Top Ten Pop hits, according to Billboard.
Along with Thomas and the brothers, the New Jersey group’s founding members included Robert “Spike” Mickens, Ricky Westfield, George Brown, and Charles Smith.
CNN’s Liam Reilly & Alta Spells contributed to this report.