Dennis Thomas, the longtime saxophonist and an original member of the legendary music group, Kool & the Gang, has died, as the band shared on their Facebook page. “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 reads.
He died peacefully in his sleep Saturday in New Jersey, where he was a resident of Montclair, according to a statement from his representative.
Kool & the Gang are known for their hypnotic rhythms and smooth grooves in songs like “Summer Madness” and “Celebration.” Thomas not only lent his voice to the iconic band, but he was the alto sax player, flutist and percussionist. He served as master of ceremonies at the band’s shows. His last appearance with the group was July Fourth at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.
Thomas, or “Dee Tee,” as he was also called, joined brothers Robert “Kool” Bell and Ronald Bell to form the funk band in 1964 while in high school with them. Over the course of his nearly-60-year career, Thomas played on every Kool & the Gang studio album, including their 25th album Perfect Union, which is out August 20, 2021.
“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,” wrote the rest of the band. “Dennis’ prologue featured on the groups 1971 hit, ‘Who’s Gonna Take the Weight’ is legendary and an example of his showmanship. Dee Tee was the group’s wardrobe stylist who made sure they always looked fresh. In the band’s early days, Dennis also served as the ‘budget hawk,’ carrying the group’s earnings in a paper bag in the bell of his horn.”
Thomas was also known for his stylish clothes and hats, as he became the group’s first wardrobe stylist. In the early days, he served as their “budget hawk,” carrying their earnings in a paper bag stuffed into the bell of his horn, the statement said.
The band has earned two Grammy Awards and seven American Music Awards. They were honored in 2014 with a Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award. Their music is heavily sampled and featured on film sound tracks, including those for Rocky, Saturday Night Fever and Pulp Fiction.
Thomas appeared on every one of Kool & the Gang’s albums — including their upcoming 25th studio release, “Perfect Union.”
Thomas’ death comes nearly a year after Ronald Bell’s passing last September at the age of 68. He is survived by are his wife, Phynjuar Saunders Thomas, daughter Tuesday Rankin and sons David Thomas and Devin Thomas.
Some other Kool & the gang hits that Thomas played on have been heavily sampled in the hip hop community by big name rappers like