David Sanborn, the Grammy Award-winning saxophonist, has died at the age of 78

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Saxophonist David Sanborn, shown here performing in Michigan in 2022.


David Sanborn, an influential saxophonist who achieved success in pop, R&B, jazz and other genres, died Sunday.

He was 78 years old.

“It is with heavy and sad hearts that we bring to you the loss of world-renowned saxophonist, 6-time Grammy Award winner, David Sanborn,” a statement on his social media accounts read. Mr. Sanborn died Sunday afternoon, May 12, after a long battle with prostate cancer with its complications.

Sanborn’s publicist confirmed the accuracy of the post when reached by CNN.

He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2018, but continued to perform until recently.

“In fact he already has concerts scheduled for 2025.” The statement concluded. “David Sanborn was a prominent figure in contemporary pop and jazz. He has been said to have brought the saxophone back into rock and roll.

Sanborn was born in Tampa, Florida, and grew up in Missouri. He began playing the saxophone as part of his recovery after contracting polio at age 3, according to his website.

“By the age of 14, he was able to play with legends like Albert King and Little Milton,” his biography on the site states. “Dave went on to study music at Northwestern University before transferring to the University of Iowa where he played and studied with the great saxophonist J.R. Monterose.”

Sanborn went on to join the Butterfield Blues Band and play Woodstock with Paul Butterfield. His career took off and the saxophonist toured with Stevie Wonder, recorded on Wonder’s “Talking Book” album, played with The Rolling Stones, and toured with David Bowie.

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Sanborn’s solo on Bowie’s “Young Americans” was a standout. His other collaborators include Paul Simon and James Taylor.

He released his debut solo album, “Taking Off,” in 1975. His second album, “Hideaway,” followed four years later. Other Sanborn albums included contributions from Luther Vandross, Christian McBride, Eric Clapton, and more.

“All I Need Is You” won him his first Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance in 1981. He went on to win five more Grammy Awards, have eight gold albums and one platinum album and toured successfully for decades.

In March 2024, Sanborn was honored in St. Louis for his accomplishments in jazz.

“I’m so glad I’m alive to receive this.” Sanborn said at the time. “I am incredibly grateful and honored to receive this award in my hometown of St. Louis.”

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