Image via Hot 8 Brass Band’s Instagram

Bennie Pete, sousaphone player and co-founder of New Orleans’ beloved Hot 8 Brass Band has died from complications from sarcoidosis and COVID-19, reported. He was 45 years old.

Pete died on Monday at New Orleans East Hospital. His wife Lameka Pete said her husband collapsed at their home on Aug. 18. Pete later tested positive for COVID-19 after he was tested for the virus at the hospital. Pete was reluctant to get vaccinated due to underlying health conditions. He underwent surgery for advanced prostate cancer in 2018 and was diagnosed with sarcoidosis in 2015. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, he was unable to perform with the Hot 8 Brass Band due to his sarcoidosis.

Pete co-founded the Hot 8 Brass Band in 1996 by helping to bring together two student groups from the Fortier High School. His sousaphone played an essential role in the group’s ever-evolving sound, from frunk to rap, to R&B, his presence acted as the melodic core of the group.

The Mayor of New Orleans, LaToya Cantrell, commented on his departure in a tweet. “He brought so much joy and light to our people,” wrote LaToya, “He’s an irreplaceable part of the fabric of which makes our culture great.”

Pete is survived by his Wife Lameka, his stepdaughters LaShae Joseph and Laila Trask, and his sons, Bennie Pete III, Brannon and Brennon Pete.