“Kool & the Gang” co-founding member Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas has passed at the age of 70.
Representatives for the group announced Thomas’ death on Aug. 7 in a statement shared with fans on social media. The beloved father “passed away peacefully in his sleep” at his residence in New Jersey. A cause of death was not made public.
He is survived by his wife Phynjuar Saunders Thomas, daughter Tuesday Rankin, and sons David and Devin Thomas.
The “cool cat” of the soul-funk crew made his last public appearance with the band on the Fourth of July as they kicked off the season of outdoor performances at The Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.
Across social media, fans left an outpouring of condolences and love for the group.
“RIP Mr. Thomas. Kool and the Gang music is part of my musical DNA. At 16 years old the DJ dropped the needles on the record Hollywood Swingin’. It made it a magical moment.”
“Wow he was great always love is cool demeanor and style, all you cats are just so cool, my first music was a couple of Kool and the Gang 45s back then as a teenager.”
The Orlando, Florida, native’s remarkable music legacy is remembered for flute, saxophone, and percussion contributions to numerous records, including the group’s 1971 hit “Who’s Gonna Take the Wheel.”
The original seven-member group began in 1964 — with brothers Ronald and Robert “Kool” Bell, and friends Thomas, Spike Mickens, Ricky Westfield, George Brown, and Charles Smith — as the Jazziacs but would later settle on “Kool & the Gang” as their official name.
Over the span of their multi-decade career, they have won two Grammy Awards, seven American Music Awards, and had countless records land in the top ten of the R&B and pop charts. Some of the group’s iconic hits include “Celebration,” “Cherish,” and “Jungle Boogie.”
In 2015 the group earned the 2,560th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. “With us it’s always been about the music,” said Bell in 2015. “We still travel, we still tour around the world and we’re still making music. We just love the music.”
Their most recent accomplishment came last year when the group’s evergreen record “Celebration” was inducted into the Library of Congress National Recording Registry.