Sax player Dennis Thomas of Kool & The Gang dies at 70
MONTCLAIR, N.J. - Saxophonist Dennis Thomas, who played for the band, "Kool & The Gang" died at 70 years old Saturday in New Jersey, according to band members.
A cause of death has not been specified.
"Dennis Thomas (known as "Dee Tee"), beloved husband, father and a co-founder of Kool & the Gang, passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 70 in New Jersey," the group posted on its Instagram page.
According to the band, Thomas was a co-founder and original member of the group who put out hits like "Jungle Boogie" and "Hollywood Swinging."
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Band members said Thomas was born on February 9, 1951, in Orlando, Florida and was married to Phynjuar Saunders Thomas.
"Dennis was known as the quintessential cool cat in the group, loved for his hip clothes and hats, and his laid-back demeanor," the group posted on Instagram. "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."
The band credited Thomas for the band's wardrobe and frugal spending, saying he "served as the ‘budget hawk’, carrying the group’s earnings in a paper bag in the bell of his horn" during the band's early days.
Thomas last appeared with the band when they kicked off the 2021 season at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on the 4th of July. It also served as Thomas' farewell appearance.
Last September, Ronald "Khalis" Bell, a co-founder, singer and producer of the group Kool & the Gang, died at 68 years old.
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Kool & the Gang grew from jazz roots in the 1960s to become one of the major groups of the 1970s, blending jazz, funk, R&B and pop. After a brief downturn, the group enjoyed a return to stardom in the ’80s.
The group’s other founders are brothers Ronald and Robert Bell, and Spike Mickens, Ricky Westfield, George Brown and Charles Smith.
Kool & the Gang won a Grammy in 1978 for their work on the soundtrack for "Saturday Night Fever." The group was honored with a BET Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014 and inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame four years later.
Among those Thomas is survived by are his wife, daughter Tuesday Rankin and sons David Thomas and Devin Thomas.
The Associated Press and FOX News contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.