The Stones Lose Their Sax

The Stones Lose Their Sax

Bobby Keys, legendary rock and roll saxophonist and longtime touring member of the Rolling Stones, has passed away. He was 70 years old.

The Texas native picked up the saxophone after hearing bandleader King Curtis, inspired by the bombastic sound the instrument could produce in the right hands. He began touring at 15, soon playing with Buddy Holly and backing up pop star Bobby Vee on Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars tour.

Keys met the Stones at a San Antonio Teen Fair in 1964. With his larger-than-life personality he became fast friends with Keith Richards – the duo were born on the same day – and together they famously dropped a TV from a 10th-story hotel window. As legend tells, Keys also filled an entire bathtub with Dom Perignon champagne, drinking most of it. This and other rock and roll antics put him in disfavor with Mick Jagger and sidelined him from performing with the band in the later half of the ’70s, but after 1982 he was present on every Stones tour until his death.

Besides touring with the Stones for just short of 50 years and making countless appearances on their recordings, Keys’ memorable sax shared the studio and stage with a pantheon of rock royalty.

Among others Keys played on studio albums by Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Who, Harry Nilsson, Donovan, Keith Moon, Warren Zevon, Delaney & Bonnie, John Lennon, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, Marvin Gaye, John Hiatt and Sheryl Crow.

(Photo: Brian Hineline)

In a 2012 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Keys said, “If you believe in the magic of rock & roll, which I devoutly do, it isn’t in the individual. I’ve played in bands with A-team players around, but unless they can play together, it doesn’t do any good.”

In a statement from the band “The Rolling Stones are devastated by the loss of their very dear friend…Bobby made a unique musical contribution to the band since the 1960s. He will be greatly missed.” For his own part, Keith Richards said, “I have lost the largest pal in the world and I can’t express the sense of sadness I feel, although Bobby would tell me to cheer up.”

We salute a legendary talent and personality with this playlist, collecting some of the many contributions he made to music in his venerable career.

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