David Sanborn, Grammy-winning saxophonist, dies at age 78

2022 Miramar Jazz Festival

Photo: Johnny Louis/Getty Images

Saxophonist David Sanborn has died at the age of 78. “It is with sad and heavy hearts that we convey to you the loss of internationally renowned, six-time Grammy Award winner David Sanborn. “Mr. Sanborn passed away on Sunday afternoon, May 12th, with complications after a long battle with prostate cancer,” read a statement on his official Instagram. Sanborn was diagnosed with cancer in 2018 but continued to tour and had dates scheduled through 2025. He worked with the likes of James Brown, Eric Clapton, Stevie Wonder, Elton John and Kenny G. Sanborn briefly joined the band Saturday Night Live band in the late ’70s and appeared as a musical guest in the show’s 100th episode alongside Paul Simon and James Taylor.

Although Sanborn appreciated jazz music, he didn’t want to be pigeonholed into a box that he didn’t own based solely on his instrument. “I would describe myself as someone who comes from the blues/R&B side of the spectrum. But I mean, if you play the saxophone, you certainly can’t escape the influence of jazz,” he explained NPR in 2008. “So it’s not that I don’t necessarily want to be called a jazz musician. I just don’t know if that’s entirely true.”

Below are tributes to the late musician.