Dennis Thomas, founding member of Kool & The Gang dies aged 70

Kool & The Gang founding member, Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas, has died peacefully in his sleep, aged 70

Kool & The Gang co-founding member, Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas, the prolific hitmaking soul-funk band’s saxophonist, has died on Saturday, August 7, aged 70, according to a statement from his representative, who confirmed that he had passed away peacefully in his sleep, at his Montclair home in New Jersey, according to

With a career spanning close to 60 years, Thomas was a master of the alto sax, flute, and percussion, the sounds of which played an influential part in the massive chart hits of Kool & The Gang, on songs like, ‘Get Down On It’, ‘Joanna’, and ‘Celebration’, some of the soundtracks to the youth of the 1970s and 1980s dance scene in nightclubs all over the world, with Dennis performing one of his last gigs in an incredible live show with the band at the legendary Los Angeles stadium, the Hollywood Bowl on July 4, American Independence Day.

His final concert before his passing was in Marciac in France, on Monday, July 31, and one of our readers even took the time to email and tell us how she was fortunate enough to be there at the concert, thank you for that info Julia, I am sure you thoroughly enjoyed a great night of music, and what a memory you will ‘Cherish’.

Wrong. He & the band played a wonderful final concert the Monday before his death, at Marciac in France. I was there, I saw him…!

Kool & The Gang was born in 1964, when seven friends got together in Jersey City, forming a group that would play a unique mix of jazz, soul, and funk, first called the Jazziacs, before settling on the now-famous group name in 1969, named after brothers, Robert ‘Kool’ and Ronald Bell, who along with Spike Mickens, Ricky Westfield, George Brown, and Charles Smith, went on to become one of the most famous bands, and distinctive sounds, ever.

Dennis was famed for his selection of hats, and his love of hip clothing, even serving as the group’s wardrobe stylist, and allegedly, in the early days, was responsible for carrying the band’s gig earnings inside a paper bag that was safely hidden, deep inside the bell of his horn.

Their songs have been used on the soundtracks of countless films, and during their career the band have picked up shelves full of awards, including seven American Music Awards, and two Grammys, and in 2014 they were handed a Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award.


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Written by

Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at