Dennis Thomas – longtime saxophonist and founding member of Kool & the Gang – has died, as the band announced on their Facebook page today. “Dennis was known as the quintessential cool cat in the group, loved for his hip clothes and hats and his relaxed demeanor,” the statement said. Thomas died in his sleep on August 7th; he was 70 years old.

Thomas, or “Dee Tee” as he was also known, joined brothers Robert “Kool” Bell and Ronald Bell in 1964 to form the funk band while he was in high school with them. During his nearly 60-year career, Thomas has appeared on every Kool & the Gang studio album, including their 25th album, Perfect Union, due out August 20, 2021.

“Dennis was a great personality and at the same time a very private person. He was an alto saxophonist, flautist, percussionist and master of ceremonies at the band’s shows, ”wrote the rest of the band. “Dennis’ prologue to the group’s 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 early days of the band, Dennis also served as a “budget hawk” who carried the group’s earnings in a paper bag in his horn. “