Saxophonist Bobby Keys, who put his unmistakable mark on several Rolling Stones songs over the past 45 years, has died, according to a report in Rolling Stone. He was 70 years old.
In a statement released by The Rolling Stones, the band said that they were “devastated” by Keys’ passing. “Bobby made a unique musical contribution to the band since the 1960s,” the band said. “He will be greatly missed”
Born in Slaton, Texas, Keys discovered the saxophone through the work of bandleader King Curtis. Keys was already touring by his teen years, when he backed Bobby Vee on Dick Clark’s Caravan Of Stars tour. It was on these package tours when he first encountered the Rolling Stones. The group kept in touch with Keys, and Mick Jagger eventually invited him into the studio as the Stones were recording their string of classic albums: Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile On Main St. Keys’ work can be heard on all of those, most notably on the hit “Brown Sugar.”
Keys’ fondness for hard living made him a friend to Richards, and the saxophonist
continued to play with the Stones off and on over the next few decades, despite Keys having a contentious relationship with Mick Jagger. Keys also performed on John Lennon’s single “Power To The People.”
Keys last performed with The Stones on their recent 14 On Fire tour, but he bowed out of the Australian leg due to illness.
Richards issued a separate statement on Keys’ passing: “I’ve lost the largest pal in the world and I can’t express the sense of sadness that I feel, although Bobby would probably tell me to cheer up. My condolences to all who knew him and his love of music.”