Who was David Sanborn? Exploring Life And Career Of Grammy-Winning Saxophonist As He Passes Away At 78

Famous jazz saxophonist David Sanborn, who was known for his work with David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, and many others, passed away on Sunday.

Published on May 14, 2024  |  12:02 PM IST |  34.7K
(Image Courtesy: Twitter)
Image courtesy: Twitter/ David Sanborn
Key Highlight
  • Who was David Sanborn?
  • Jazz saxophonists who also won several Grammys has passed away at 78

TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains references to an individual's death.

Grammy-winning saxophonist David Sanborn died on Sunday. He was known for his decades-long career spanning several genres and involving collaborations with some of the finest musicians in history. The musician died of complications from prostate cancer, according to a series of posts on his official account.

The note read, “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. Mr. Sanborn passed Sunday afternoon, May 12th, after an extended battle with prostate cancer with complications.”

According to his statement, he had been battling prostate cancer since 2018. He just felt good enough to start doing live performances again, with dates running through 2025. He mentioned health concerns in his announcement last month to postpone three gigs scheduled for May in Virginia.

Who was David Sanborn?

Early life

David Sanborn was born on July 30, 1945, in Tampa, Florida, and grew up in Kirkwood, Missouri. When he was young, he had polio. Instead of studying the piano, he started playing the saxophone on a doctor's recommendation to strengthen his weak chest muscles and enhance his breathing. Sanborn was first and largely influenced by alto saxophonist Hank Crawford, who was then in Ray Charles's band.




Sanborn studied music while a college student at Northwestern University. However, he changed schools and studied and performed with saxophone J.R. Monterose at the University of Iowa. When Sanborn was fourteen years old, he performed for blues artists Little Milton and Albert King. 

Between 1967 and 1971, Sanborn recorded four Butterfield albums as a soloist and member of the horn section. Sanborn performed with the band at the Woodstock Music Festival in Bethel, New York, early on August 18, 1969.

Sanborn contributed to the song Tuesday Heartbreak from Stevie Wonder's Talking Book album in 1972. When Sanborn joined the Brecker Brothers band in the mid-1970s, he was exposed to Michael Brecker's style of popular jazz fusion music. The brothers also helped him produce his debut solo album.

In his early years, Sanborn studied free jazz with saxophonists Roscoe Mitchell and Julius Hemphill, while being most known for his smooth jazz work. He returned to this genre in 1993 when he made an appearance on Tim Berne's Diminutive Mysteries, which was dedicated to Hemphill. Avant-garde musicians were featured on Sanborn's CD Another Hand. Sanborn and Al Jarreau performed two full concerts at Atlanta's Chastain Park in 1985.

ALSO READ: Halle Bailey Gets Tattoo In Honor Of Son Halo On First Mother's Day; Shares Never-Before-Seen Clip On Instagram 

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