RIP: Dennis "Dee Tee" Thomas (1951-2021)

Brian in Mesa

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The Dark Side

Dennis 'Dee Tee' Thomas, founder of the legendary funk band Kool & the Gang, has died aged 70​

Musician Dennis "Dee Tee" Thomas, a co-founder of the legendary funk band Kool & the Gang, has died at the age of 70.

A statement posted to the group's official Facebook page announced that Thomas "passed away peacefully in his sleep" on August 7, in New Jersey. No cause of death was given in the statement.

"An original member of Kool & the Gang, Dennis was known as the quintessential cool cat in the group, loved for his hip clothes and hats, and his laid-back demeanor," the statement read. "A huge personality while also an extremely private person, Dennis was the alto saxophone player, flutist, percussionist, as well as master of ceremonies at the band's shows."

Thomas founded Kool & the Gang in 1964 alongside several teenage friends, including brothers Robert "Kool" and Ronald "Khalis" Bell, Robert "Spike" Mickens, Charles Smith, George Brown, and Ricky West. The group was initially named The Jazziacs and went through several iterations before settling on Kool & the Gang.

Over the decades, the group released 25 studio albums, earned two Grammys, seven American Music Awards, and 25 Top Ten R&B hits.

The group's mix of funk and jazz arrangements has become one of the popular, influential, and heavily sampled sounds in contemporary music and has been featured in several film soundtracks, including "Saturday Night Fever," "Rocky," and Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction."

Some of the group's most popular singles include "Ladies Night," "Get Down On It," and "Celebration," which was inducted into the Library of Congress National Recording registry last year. In 2014, the group was awarded the Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award and received a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame the following year.

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