Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas, 70
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’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.
“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,” read the statement of his passing on the band’s official Facebook page. “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 died on August 7 in New Jersey “peacefully in his sleep,” according to the statement by the band.