Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas of Kool & the Gang has died at the age of 70. Thomas was the longtime saxophonist of the iconic R&B/Soul group. According to the obituary posted by the group on Facebook, Thomas died peacefully in his sleep on August 7, 2021.
Thomas was a co-founder of Kool & the Gang, and according to the group, he was cool, wore hip clothes, and had a “laid-back demeanor.” He was the alto saxophone player, flutist, percussionist as well as master of ceremonies at the band’s shows. Thomas was also the group’s wardrobe stylist as he always made sure they “looked fresh.” According to the band, “Dennis also served as the ‘budget hawk’, carrying the group’s earnings in a paper bag in the bell of his horn.”
Kool & the Gang has earned two GRAMMY Awards, seven American Music Awards, 25 Top Ten R&B hits, nine Top Ten Pop hits and 31 gold and platinum albums. They have also become the most sampled band of all time, with their music being featured in classic movies like Rocky, Saturday Night Fever and Pulp Fiction. In 2014, the band was awarded with a Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2015 they were timelessly exalted as American musical icons with a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame. The band is so ingrained into history that they are included in installations at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
In March 2021, the Library of Congress inducted Kool & the Gang’s timeless hit “Celebration” into their National Recording Registry. According to an article from Pitchfork, the recordings were “worthy of preservation for all time based on their cultural, historical or aesthetic importance in the nation’s recorded sound heritage.” Last year, in September 2020, Kool & the Gang co-founder Ronald “Khalis” Bell passed away at the age of 68.