Famous jazz saxophonist David Sanborn dies

 May 15, 2024

Renowned saxophonist David Sanborn, a rare jazz musician who achieved mainstream recognition in the rock era, has died. He was 78.  

The six-time Grammy Winner died after a long battle with prostate cancer. Sanborn still had concert dates on his schedule into next year.

Over the course of his highly successful career, Sanborn was an in-demand alto saxophonist for legends like Stevie Wonder, James Brown, the Rolling Stones, and Eric Clapton.

David Sanborn's career

A versatile artist, Sanborn effortlessly crossed boundaries between jazz, rock, funk, R&B, and pop.

"Jazz has always transformed and absorbed what’s around it," he told DownBeat magazine in 2017. "Real musicians don’t have any time to spend thinking about limited categories."

The Tampa, Florida native, who grew up in Kirkwood, Missouri, picked up the saxophone as a youngster after contracting polio.

He got an auspicious start in music playing with blues icons Albert King and Little Milton at the age of 14. In 1969, he played Woodstock with Paul Butterfield. Sanborn's career took off in the 1970s, as he collaborated with David Bowie on his soul album Young Americans and Stevie Wonder on the funk classic Talking Book. 

He had notable solos on Bowie's "Young Americans" and the James Taylor Hit "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)."

In 1975, Sanborn released his first and most popular solo album, Taking Off. He went on to release 25 albums in all, winning commercial and critical success with six Grammys, eight gold albums and one platinum album. He was also known for being part of the live band on Saturday Night Live from 1979-1980 and later, the Late Night With David Letterman band in the late 1980s.

Tributes pour in

Parliament-Funkadelic bassist Bootsy Collins was among those to pay tribute.

Jazz pianist Bob James, who worked with Sanborn on the Grammy-winning album Double Vision, said he was "deeply saddened."

"I was so privileged to share major highlights of my career in partnership with him," he wrote on Facebook.

"His legacy will live on through the recordings. Every note he played came straight from his heart, with a passionate intensity that could make an ordinary tune extraordinary.”

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