David Sanborn: Tributes to man who played saxophone on David Bowie's Young Americans, and worked with Rolling Stones and Paul Simon

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A saxophonist who recorded the instantly recognisable lick on David Bowie’s Young Americans has died aged 78

Tributes have been paid to a Grammy Award-winning musician who worked with David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, Eric Clapton and Luther Vandross.

Saxophonist David Sanborn has died after an “extended battle” with prostate cancer at the age of 78. Over six decades, Sanborn released 25 albums, toured with British superstar Bowie, and recorded the renowned solo on Bowie’s 1975 album Young Americans.

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The official X account for Bowie, one of the most influential and revered musicians of the 20th century, shared a 2002 picture of the pair during a dinner in Montreux, Switzerland,

“Sad to learn of the passing of American alto saxophonist David Sanborn,” a statement from the Bowie estate said. Bowie fans will know him best for his sublime work on Young Americans and David Live; he also played flute on the latter.”

Sanborn’s social media accounts announced his death. A statement said, “It is with sad and heavy hearts that we convey to you the loss of internationally renowned, six-time Grammy Award-winning saxophonist David Sanborn. Mr Sanborn passed Sunday afternoon, May 12, after an extended battle with prostate cancer with complications.

“Mr Sanborn had been dealing with prostate cancer since 2018 but had been able to maintain his normal schedule of concerts until just recently. Indeed, he already had concerts scheduled for 2025. 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’.”

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During his career, Sanborn also toured with US star Stevie Wonder and was featured on his Talking Book album. He also played with The Rolling Stones and collaborated with Paul Simon and James Taylor during his solo career. He also performed at the iconic 1969 Woodstock festival with the Butterfield Blues Band.

The single, All I Need Is You, won Sanborn his first Grammy for best R&B instrumental performance and in 1983, he released the hit album Backstreet featuring Luther Vandross as a guest vocalist. Later albums have included guest stars such as British star Eric Clapton.

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