Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas, a saxophonist and a founding member of the band Kool & the Gang, died on Saturday in New Jersey. He was 70.
Mr. Thomas died in his sleep, in accordance with an announcement from his representatives that didn’t specify a explanation for his dying or the place in New Jersey he died.
Mr. Thomas was a co-founder of the long-running band Kool & the Gang, identified for hits corresponding to “Celebration,” “Get Down on It” and “Jungle Boogie.” He noticed the band, which experimented with sounds from soul, funk, jazz, pop and R&B, by means of quite a few lineup modifications.
Mr. Thomas was a “enormous persona” within the band, his representatives stated, and he helped model the performers’ wardrobes to make sure “they all the time seemed recent.”
“Dennis was often known as the quintessential cool cat within the group, liked for his hip garments and hats, and his laid-back demeanor,” the assertion stated.
The band received a Grammy Award in 1978, the last decade when a number of of its upbeat hits climbed the charts.
Across the time the band received a Grammy, it entered a gradual interval earlier than including a brand new vocalist, J.T. Taylor, and adapting its sound to match the disco sensibilities of the period. The group re-emerged in 1979 with the smash “Girls’ Evening,” an ode to an evening of partying and dancing.
The band members adopted the hit with the 1980 tune “Celebration,” a timeless traditional that embodied the group’s buoyant sound. The monitor turned a staple at sporting occasions and every other shows of pleasure and enthusiasm. The tune was inducted into the Nationwide Recording Registry of the Library of Congress, an honor reserved for 25 songs yearly that showcase the wealthy heritage of American music.
The band members lent their voices to the 1984 charity single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” Numerous the last decade’s largest artists recorded the monitor to attract consideration to a famine in Ethiopia.
Mr. Thomas shaped Kool & the Gang in 1964 with six of his mates — Robert Bell, often known as Kool; Ronald Bell; Spike Mickens; Ricky Westfield; George Brown; and Charles Smith. They first known as themselves the “Jazziacs,” the assertion stated, earlier than selecting the title “Kool & the Gang,” a nod to Robert Bell.
“We realized that we needed to simplify, that the majority easy music will seize a large a part of the viewers,” Mr. Thomas advised The New York Instances in 1973, about selecting the group’s musical model. “All people within the group was a jazz musician at coronary heart, however we knew we needed to play R&B to generate income.”
Mr. Thomas was the band’s “funds hawk” within the early days, his representatives stated, including that he might be seen “carrying the group’s earnings in a paper bag within the bell of his horn.”
Mr. Thomas’s alto saxophone solos had been featured on a number of of the band’s tracks. He may additionally play the flute and percussion devices, and he was the grasp of ceremonies on the band’s reveals.
His final efficiency with the band was on July 4 on the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.
Dennis Thomas was born on Feb. 9, 1951, in Orlando, Fla. He and his dad and mom moved to Jersey Metropolis, N.J., when he was 2 years previous, The Instances reported in 1973. He grew up within the metropolis’s Lafayette part, the place he met the opposite founding members of Kool & the Gang.
“We need to play a common music,” Mr. Thomas stated in 1973. “We need to carry our audiences up so they consider what they’ve heard.”
The band had a dozen high 10 hits on the Billboard charts, and the group obtained a star on the Hollywood Stroll of Fame in 2015.
Mr. Thomas was married to Phynjuar Saunders Thomas and lived in Montclair, N.J., his representatives stated.
One in every of his daughters, Michelle Thomas, was an actress on tv reveals, together with “The Cosby Present,” “Household Issues” and “The Younger and the Stressed.” She died in 1998 of most cancers at age 30. He was additionally preceded in dying by one other of his daughters, Tracy Jackson.
Along with his spouse, he’s survived by his daughter Tuesday Rankin; his sons David Thomas and Devin Thomas; his sisters Doris Mai McClary and Elizabeth Thomas Ross; his brother Invoice Mcleary; an aunt and several other nieces, nephews and grandchildren, the assertion stated.