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Dennis ‘Dee Tee’ Thomas, Kool & the Gang Co-Founder, Dead at 70

COCONUT CREEK, FL - DECEMBER 31: Dennis Thomas of Kool & The Gang performs at Seminole Casino Coconut Creek on December 31, 2012 in Coconut Creek, Florida. (Photo by Larry Marano/Getty Images)

Dennis Thomas has died at the age of 70. A representative for Kool & the Gang confirmed the news, stating that Thomas (known as Dee Tee) “passed away peacefully in his sleep” on Saturday morning. No cause of death has been revealed.

“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 statement reads. “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.”

Dee Tee’s final performance was just last month, when Kool & the Gang played a Fourth of July show at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. He is survived by his wife Phynjuar Saunders Thomas and their three children.

Brothers Ronald “Khalis” Bell and Robert “Kool” Bell founded the band in 1964 with friends Dennis Thomas, Spike Mickens, Ricky Westfield, George Brown and Charles Smith. They played under the moniker Jazziacs before changing the name to Kool & the Gang in 1969. They would go on to release 23 studio albums and 68 singles, including the chart topping “Celebration” in 1980.

Thomas’ death comes nearly a year after Ronald Bell died at the age of 68. Robert Bell and George Brown are the only living members from the band’s original lineup.