David Sanborn

MUSICIANDavid Sanborn

“I do this because I love it, and at the end of the day, the fact that I can make a living at all doing this, I’m grateful for.”

—David Sanborn

St. Louis has always been known as a hotbed for jazz, which is fitting since one  of the best-known contemporary jazz performers of all time hails from the area.  David Sanborn is perhaps the most prolific performer of all time in the genre of  smooth jazz. His songs are played on stations around the globe on radio, satellite,  and even on television programs. David Sanborn is truly one of the best when it  comes to contemporary saxophone music.

Location of Kirkwood in MissouriTHE EARLY YEARS

David Sanborn was born on July 30, 1945, in Tampa, Florida, but moved to the  Show Me State when he was a child. He grew up in the St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood,  where his musical abilities were discovered early. He suffered from a bout  with polio, which actually was the stimulus for his ability to play saxophone. As a  part of his physical therapy, doctors suggested that he pick up a wind instrument  to help his lung capacity. As he recovered, he continued to work on his musical  skills. He was so adept on the instrument that by the time he was twelve he was  allowed on stage at a local club to back up musical legend Albert King.

After graduating from high school, Sanborn headed to Northwestern University  but later transferred to the University of Iowa. Soon after making the move, he got married and had a child. These life-changing events made him realize it  was time to expand his career prospects in order to pay the bills, so he sought out  bigger venues to showcase his talent.


Even though Sanborn was only in his early twenties, he already had a decade of  experience playing on stage. A friend encouraged him to try out for the Paul Butterfield  Blues Band, which he did, and ended up getting the job. He toured with the band for a while, which gave him more experience and the opportunity to travel the country.

He spent most of the 1970s as a traveling studio performer and ensemble  musician for a number of acts. During this time, he played with some of the
biggest names in music, including David Bowie, Paul Simon, James Taylor, the  Rolling Stones, the Eagles, and Stevie Wonder. He was a man in high demand and  already had four of his own albums on store shelves. But as the 1970s came to a  close, Sanborn decided it was time to reach out for a bigger solo career and see if  he could make it on his own.

CD Artwork for David Sanborn - Here and GoneSHOW ME SUCCESS

The 1980s turned out to be a major turning point in his career. He released his  breakout album, Hideaway, in 1980. The following year he released Voyeur, which  won Sanborn his first Grammy. He won four more Grammys in the 1980s,  making him one of the most honored musicians of the decade. His popularity  reached into the TV world as well, as he performed with Paul Schaffer’s band on  Late Night with David Letterman, and even started his own TV show, Night Music.

The 1990s provided him with even more success. He was already an established  star on smooth jazz radio, and he began incorporating other artists to play on his albums. His unique style allowed him to infuse other genres of music while keeping his core fans happy. He paired up with an orchestra on the album Pearls, toured with rock great Eric Clapton, and won another Grammy for Inside.

Sanborn continues to dominate the airwaves in the 2000s, selling millions of albums and packing arenas around the world. His collaborations with other stars, and an amazing body of solo recordings, make him one of the most influential saxophonists in jazz, pop, and R&B over the past few decades.


*The saxophone solo in James Taylor’s classic remake of “How Sweet It Is” was performed by David Sanborn.

*He recorded the theme song for the hit TV show L.A. Law.

*Sanborn performed at Woodstock with the Paul Butterfield Band.

*He appeared in the movie Scrooged with Bill Murray.

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