Kool & The Gang’s Dennis Thomas latest – Saxophonist dies 22 years after death of his Family Matters' daughter Michelle

Kool & The Gang’s Dennis Thomas latest – Saxophonist dies 22 years after death of his Family Matters' daughter Michelle

August 7, 2021

KOOL & The Gang’s co-founder and saxophonist Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas has died at the age of 70.

The legendary band announced Thomas' death on Saturday, August 7. The band said Thomas "passed away peacefully in his sleep" in New Jersey.

No cause of death was given.

Alongside Robert "Kool" Bell, Ronald Bell, Robert "Spike" Micken, Charles Smith, George Brown, and Ricky West, Thomas was among the co-founders of the Jazz group Kool & the Gang.

The New Jersey Jazz band was formed in 1964. Some of the band's hits include Celebration, Get Down On It and Ladies' Night.

Thomas lost his daughter, Michelle, in 1998. She starred in Family Matters.

Read our Dennis Thomas live blog for the latest news and updates…

  • Katie Balevic

    WHO WAS DENNIS THOMAS' FAMILY?

    Thomas was married to Phynjuar Saunders Thomas.

    He is survived by his daughter Tuesday Rankin and sons David Thomas and Devin Thomas.

    Thomas also had a daughter, Michelle, who starred in Family Matters. She died in 1998.

  • Katie Balevic

    THOMAS PERFORMED WITH ELTON JOHN

    On June 30, 1984, Dennis Thomas performed on stage while supporting Elton John at Wembley Stadium in London, England.

    NINTCHDBPICT000671738183-1Credit: Getty
  • Katie Balevic

    DENNIS THOMAS WAS ON EVERY KOOL & THE GANG ALBUM

    Thomas was on every one of the band's albums.

    Credit: Getty
  • Katie Balevic

    FEW OF THE BAND MEMBERS STILL ALIVE

    Thomas was one of three surviving members of the original Kool & The Gang.

    Only Ronald “Kool” Bell and drummer-keyboardist George Brown remain from the band’s 1964 formation.

  • Katie Balevic

    THOMAS' GREATEST HITS

    In a 2015 Rolling Stone interview, the Bell brothers credited Thomas playing an instrumental role in the band’s hit “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight.”

    “The intro to [that song] is Dennis,” Ronald “Khalis” Bell said.

    “At the time, we were all searching for spirituality and stuff like that, so DT is the one who came up with that announcement on the song.”

  • Katie Balevic

    WHICH ALBUMS DID THOMAS PLAY ON?

    Thomas played on every one of Kool & The Gang's albums up to their upcoming 25th studio album Perfect Union.

    His alto sax features on many of their hits like “Ladies Night,” “Jungle Boogie,” “Too Hot” and “Celebration”.

    Thomas also sang backing vocals as well as the occasional lead, like on Light of Worlds’ “Rhyme Tyme People.”

  • Katie Balevic

    'KOOL & THE GANG' BORN IN 1969

    Incorporating funk, soul as well as R&B influences, the Jazziacs became Kool & The Gang in 1969.

    They went on to release their eponymous debut album the same year.

  • Katie Balevic

    WHAT WAS THE CAUSE OF DEATH?

    No cause of death was given for Dennis Thomas.

    According to a spokesperson, Thomas died in his sleep on August 7.

  • Katie Balevic

    WHAT WAS THE BAND ORIGINALLY CALLED?

    Back in 1964, New Jersey teenagers – brothers Ronald “Khalis” Bell and Robert “Kool” Bell and their friends “Dee Tee,” Spike Mickens, Ricky Westfield, George Brown, and Charles Smith – decided to form a band that was originally called the Jazziacs.

  • Katie Balevic

    THOMAS MADE SURE THE BAND 'ALWAYS LOOKED FRESH'

    "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.”

  • Katie Balevic

    THOMAS HAD A 'HUGE PERSONALITY'

    “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," the band's statement went on.

  • Katie Balevic

    STATEMENT FROM THE BAND

    The band memorialized saxophonist Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas in a statement.

    “An original member of Kool & The Gang, Dennis was known as the quintessential cool cat in the group, loved for his hip clothes and hats, and his laid-back demeanor,” the group said in a statement.

  • Katie Balevic

    KOOL & THE GANG CO-FOUNDER DEAD

    Kool & The Gang’s co-founder and saxophonist Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas has died at the age of 70.

    The legendary funk outfit confirmed his death Saturday saying he “passed away peacefully in his sleep” in New Jersey.

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