Kool and The Gang co-founder Dennis Thomas dies at 70

Kool and The Gang co-founder Dennis Thomas dies at 70
Dennis Thomas performs with Kool & the Gang in 2008. Photograph: Joe Gill/AP

One of the founding members of iconic soul-funk band Kool & the Gang – Dennis "Dee Tee" Thomas – has died at the age of 70 on Saturday in New Jersey, United States.

Dennis Thomas performs with Kool & the Gang in 2008. Photograph: Joe Gill/AP, quoting his representative, reports that Thomas who was known for such hits as 'Celebration' and 'Get Down On It' died peacefully in his sleep in his residence at Montclair.

Born on 9 February 1951, in Orlando, Florida, Thomas was an alto sax player, flutist and percussionist who also served as master of ceremonies at the band's shows.

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.

In 1964, seven teen friends created the group's unique bland of jazz, soul and funk, at first calling themselves the Jazziacs.

They went through several iterations before settling on Kool & the Gang, in 1969.

The group's other founders are the brothers Ronald and Robert Bell, and Spike Mickens, Ricky Westfield, George Brown and Charles Smith.

The band has earned two Grammy Awards and seven American Music Awards. They were honoured in 2014 with a Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award.

Their music is heavily sampled and featured on film soundtracks, including those for Rocky, Saturday Night Fever and Pulp Fiction.

Among those Thomas is survived by are his wife, Phynjuar Saunders Thomas, daughter Tuesday Rankin and sons David Thomas and Devin Thomas.

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