David Sanborn, influential saxophonist whose work spanned genres, dies at 78

David Sanborn, the influential saxophonist whose Grammy-winning career included collaborations with Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon, has died. He was 78.

Sanborn died Sunday afternoon “after an extended battle with prostate cancer with complications,” his team said Monday in an announcement shared to his social media pages. A representative for Sanborn confirmed the details to The Times.

“Mr. Sanborn had been dealing with prostate cancer since 2018, but had been able to maintain his normal schedule of concerts until just recently,” his team said in an X (formerly Twitter) thread. “Indeed he already had concerts scheduled into 2025.”

Sanborn may be known for smooth saxophone melodies on songs including “Maputo,” but his work and legacy extend far beyond the world of jazz.

“I sometimes get looped in with jazz musicians because I play sax and improvise,” Sanborn told The Times in 1996. “But if you know my music, you wouldn’t confuse it with jazz. There are certain stylistic and rhythmic elements that keep me from being in that category.”

Early in his career, Sanborn collaborated with R&B giant Stevie Wonder as well as the Rolling Stones and David Bowie. After launching his solo career in 1975, Sanborn went on to collaborate with musicians including Simon, James Taylor, Luther Vandross and Eric Clapton, according to his website.

Over the course of his career, Sanborn earned six Grammy Awards, including prizes for his albums “Straight to the Heart” and “Double Vision,” a collaboration with Bob James. Sanborn released 25 albums, including eight that went gold and one that achieved platinum status.

“David Sanborn was a seminal figure in contemporary pop and jazz music,” Monday’s statements added. “It has been said that he ‘put the saxophone back into Rock ’n Roll.’”

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