Saxophone Legend David Sanborn Passes Away at 78

Published May 13, 2024

David Sanborn, the iconic saxophonist whose sounds redefined rock and roll as well as popular music, passed away on a Sunday at the age of 78. Sanborn's death was announced via his social media, which cited his battle with prostate cancer as the cause. He is remembered as a six-time Grammy Award-winning artist, a beloved figure in contemporary pop, R&B, and jazz music.

Despite being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2018, Sanborn continued to perform almost until his last moments, with performances planned well into the future. His artistry and contributions to music placed the saxophone back at the forefront of Rock ’n Roll.

The Early Beginnings and Rise to Fame

Sanborn was born in Tampa, Florida but grew up in Missouri, where he first learned to play the saxophone as a means of rehabilitation after contracting polio at the age of three. By 14, he was already playing with famous blues musicians. He would later deepen his music education at Northwestern University and the University of Iowa.

His breakthrough came when he joined the Butterfield Blues Band and played at the legendary Woodstock Festival with Paul Butterfield. This was just the beginning of a storied career that saw him perform alongside Stevie Wonder, The Rolling Stones, and David Bowie, among others. His iconic solo on Bowie's 'Young Americans' is particularly notable.

Solo Success and Collaborative Ventures

In 1975, Sanborn released his first solo album 'Taking Off' which set the stage for a series of successful projects. His follow-up 'Hideaway' further cemented his presence in the music world. Over the course of his career, Sanborn worked with numerous artists, including Paul Simon and James Taylor, and collaborated with Erick Clapton, Luther Vandross, and Christian McBride, among others.

Sanborn's track 'All I Need Is You' brought fame and his first Grammy for best R&B instrumental performance in 1981. He would go on to win five additional Grammys, along with eight gold albums and one platinum album. Sanborn's impact was felt across generations as he toured for decades, mesmerizing audiences with his soulful sax melodies.

Final Years and Recognition

As recently as March 2024, Sanborn was celebrated for his lifetime achievements in jazz with an honor in his adopted hometown of St. Louis. Grateful for his recognition, Sanborn expressed joy and thanks for being able to witness such an accolade.

Jazz, Saxophonist, Grammy