David Sanborn Dead At 78

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The jazz saxophonist David Sanborn has died at 78. A message posted on his social media announced the news, stating that he passed away after “an extended battle with prostate cancer with complications.”

Sanborn was born in 1945 in Tampa, Florida, though he grew up in Missouri outside of St. Louis. He started playing the saxophone after his doctor thought it might help strengthen his chest muscles after contracting polio at a young age. He was playing with blues legends by the time he was 14. After studying music in college, at Northwestern University and the University Of Iowa, he moved to California and joined the Butterfield Blues Band, performing at Woodstock with them.

Sanborn was a prolific session musician before (and after) he put out his debut solo release Taking Off in 1975. Over the years, he worked with Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, James Taylor, James Brown, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Steely Dan, Billy Joel, Linda Ronstadt, Roger Waters, and many, many more.

In the ’80s, he was a member of the Saturday Night Live band and regularly appeared alongside Paul Shaffer’s band on Late Night With David Letterman. He co-hosted the show Night Music from 1988 to 1989 alongside Jools Holland. Sanborn also composed the score for a number of films, including Psycho III and Lethal Weapon 2, 3, 4.

Sanborn won six Grammys over the course of his career, including for his albums Voyeur (1981), Double Vision (1986), and Close Up (1988). “David Sanborn was a seminal figure in contemporary pop and jazz music,” the announcement of his passing read. “It has been said that he ‘put the saxophone back into Rock ’n Roll.’”