• May 14, 2024
  • aliashraf
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David Sanborn, the Grammy-winning saxophonist and influential jazz musician, died on Sunday, May 12, of prostate cancer at age 78.

A statement posted on his social media accounts the following day confirmed the news, stating, “It is with sad and heavy hearts that we convey to you the loss of internationally renowned, 6 time Grammy Award-winning, saxophonist, David Sanborn.” It cited “an extended battle with prostate cancer with complications” as his cause of death.

According to the statement, Sanborn had been dealing with prostate cancer since 2018, though he continued performing at his regularly scheduled concerts “until just recently.”

The legendary musician, apparently, had shows scheduled from this month going into 2025, including performances with his acclaimed quintet that were set for May 24 and 25 at Jimmy’s Jazz & Blues Club in Portsmouth, N.H., according to his Instagram page.

The message to fans concluded by saying, “David Sanborn was a seminal figure in contemporary pop and jazz music. It has been said that he ‘put the saxophone back into Rock ’n Roll.’”

David Sanborn performs at the Jazz Spectacular in June 2022 in Sterling Heights, Michigan.

Scott Legato/Getty 

Sanborn was born in 1945 in Tampa, Fla., and grew up in St. Louis, Mo. At age 3 he was introduced to the saxophone as part of his treatment after contracting polio, and by the time he turned 14, he played with blues icons like Albert King and Little Milton, according to his website. After high school, the saxophonist attended Northwestern University, where he studied music, before transferring to the University of Iowa, where he then played and studied with fellow music great JR Monterose. 

Later on, Sanborn traveled to California to join the Butterfield Blues Band and played the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival with band leader Paul Butterfield. He then went on to play and tour with music legends like Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Gil Evans, and The Rolling Stones.

In 1975, when he turned 30, Sanborn released his first solo album, Taking Off, which is still considered a classic. He further solidified his career with 1979’s Hideaway, the studio album that included his hit single “Seduction,” which was also featured in the movie American Gigolo. Around the same time, the jazz artist also began his foray into other genres like R&B, earning his first Grammy award in 1982 for best R&B instrumental performance for his song “All I Need Is You.”

David Sanborn performs at Jazz In The Gardens in March 2010 in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Vallery Jean/FilmMagic

During his lifetime, Sanborn released 25 albums — eight gold and one platinum, won five more Grammys, and even dabbled in the television world, hosting the show Night Music from 1988 to 1990. He also regularly hosted ABC’s After New Year’s Eve TV special and recorded theme songs for shows, plus several other tracks for The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder. Moreover, during the 1980s and ‘90s, the musician hosted his own syndicated radio program called The Jazz Show with David Sanborn

In recent years, Sanborn joined forces with his nephew and brother-in-law to launch the YouTube series Sanborn Sessions in 2017. Last year, in partnership with WBGO Studios, the saxophonist began hosting his own podcast titled As We Speak, where he’d speak to folks in the arts about their creative processes, including Kurt Elling, Sonny Rollins, John McLaughlin, and Samara Joy.

For over six decades, Sanborn remained active in the music industry as one of the most impactful artists of his time, all while pioneering a trademark blended sound of jazz, pop, and R&B.

Speaking to Downbeat in 2017, the musician said, “I’m not so interested in what is or isn’t jazz. The guardians of the gate can be quite combative, but what are they protecting? Jazz has always absorbed and transformed what’s around it. It’s not like, ‘When the cha-cha went away, music died.’ Writers have a vested interest in creating conflict too, sometimes it seems as though they don’t want to like something that everybody loves, but I never cross anybody off.”

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