In Memorial, Kool & the Gang co-founder Dennis ‘Dee Tee’ Thomas dead at 70
Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas, a founding member of the long-running soul-funk band Kool & the Gang, and known for such hits as “Celebration” and “Get Down On It,” has died. He was 70.
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 brothers Ronald and Robert Bell, and Spike Mickens, Ricky Westfield, George Brown and Charles Smith. Their musical styles throughout their history included jazz, soul, funk, rock, and pop music. The group signed to De-Lite Records and released their debut album under the name Kool and the Gang in 1969
Thomas was the alto sax player, flutist and percussionist for the band and served as master of ceremonies at their shows. He was known for his hip clothes and hats and also served as the group’s wardrobe stylist.
Kool & the Gang had several successful albums and recorded such hits as Jungle Boogie and Hollywood Swinging. A second commercial peak came in 1979 after adding lead singer James “J.T.” Taylor to the line-up. Successful albums of this period included Ladies Night, (1979), Celebrate! (1980), and Emergency (1984), their highest selling album with two million copies sold in the US. Their hit singles during this period included “Ladies’ Night”, “Celebration”, “Get Down on It“, “Joanna“, “Misled“, and “Cherish“.
Thomas was born Feb. 9, 1951, in Orlando, Florida. He was residing in Montclair, N.J. when he died peacefully in his sleep, according to a statement from his representative. His last appearance with the group was July Fourth at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.
Thomas is survived by his wife, Phynjuar Saunders Thomas, daughter Tuesday Rankin and sons David Thomas and Devin Thomas.