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Kool & the Gang co-founder Dennis Thomas dead at 70

Left to right, Ronald Khalis Bell, George Brown, Robert Kool Brown and Dennis Thomas pose for photographers at a ceremony where Kool & The Gang received the 2,560th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2015. Thomas died Saturday at the age of 70.
Left to right, Ronald Khalis Bell, George Brown, Robert "Kool" Brown and Dennis Thomas pose for photographers at a ceremony where Kool & The Gang received the 2,560th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2015. Thomas died Saturday at the age of 70. | License Photo

Aug. 7 (UPI) -- Kool & the Gang co-founder Dennis Thomas died Saturday in New Jersey where he was a longtime resident, his representatives announced. He was 70.

A news released noted the musician, who went professionally by the name "Dee Tee," had "passed away peacefully in his sleep."

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No official cause of death has been disclosed.

The Florida native "was known as the quintessential cool cat in the group, loved for his hip clothes and hats, and his laid-back demeanor," the release noted.

"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."

Famous for hits such as "Summer Madness," "Celebration," "Too Hot," "Ladies Night," "Get Down On it," "Cherish," "Fresh" and "Jungle Boogie," Kool & the Gang kicked off the 2021 season of the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on July 4.

The concert marked the reopening of an iconic venue that had been closed more than a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It was also Thomas' farewell appearance with the band.

Grammy-winning R&B group Kool & the Gang was formed in 1964 by seven teenage friends -- Thomas, brothers Ronald Bell and Robert "Kool" Bell, Spike Mickens, Ricky Westfield, George Brown, and Charles Smith.

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The band earned a Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and its music has been featured on the soundtracks of film classics such as Rocky, Saturday Night Fever and Pulp Fiction.

He is predeceased by his mother, Elizabeth Lee Thomas; his sister, Darlene Thomas; and his daughters, Michelle Thomas and Tracy Jackson. Michelle Thomas was an actress on The Cosby Show, Family Matters and The Young and the Restless. She died in 1998.

Thomas is survived by his wife, Phynjuar Saunders Thomas; daughter Tuesday Rankin; sons David Thomas and Devin Thomas; Aunt Mary "Duggie" Jones; sisters Doris Mai McClary and Elizabeth Thomas Ross; brother, Bill Mcleary; and several nieces, nephews and grandchildren.

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Norm Macdonald, known for "Saturday Night Live," "Billy Madison," and "Norm," died after a private battle with cancer on September 14 at the age of 61. Photo courtesy of Netflix

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