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“Seminal” – Tributes paid after death of ‘Young Americans’ saxophone legend David Sanborn

Tributes have been paid to David Sanborn, the saxophone legend who performed on David Bowie‘s hit ‘Young Americans’, who has died at the age of 78.

It was confirmed on his official social media accounts that he had passed away on Sunday (May 12) from complications of prostate cancer. He had been diagnosed with the disease in 2018 but had continued performing until recently and had live appearances booked into 2025.

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

“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.’”

Sanborn was born in Tampa, Florida and grew up in Missouri. He began playing saxophone according to his website.

By the age of 14, he was playing with the likes of Albert King and Little Milton. Sanborn  went on to study music at Northwestern University before transferring to the University of Iowa where he played and studied with legendary saxophonist JR Monterose.

Sanborn went on to join the Butterfield Blues Band and performed at Woodstock with Paul Butterfield. He later toured with Stevie Wonder, recording on Wonder’s ‘Talking Book’ album and also played with The Rolling Stones, and touring with David Bowie.

As well as soloing on ‘Young Americans’, Sanborn also toured with Bowie and collaborated with names including Paul Simon and James Taylor.

He released his debut solo album, ‘Taking Off’, in 1975, following it up with ‘Hideaway’ in 1979. Sanborn’s other albums featured contributions from Luther Vandross, Christian McBride, Eric Clapton and more.

Bowie’s official social media page said his estate was “sad to learn of the passing of American alto saxophonist, David Sanborn”.

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