Bobby Keys, long-time saxophonist for the Rolling Stones and numerous other classic rock acts, died today in Nashville. “Bobby was surrounded by his family and loved ones,” reads a note posted to Keys’ Facebook page. “Bobby’s horn may be silenced here on Earth, but the music he graciously shared will eternally live on.” He was 70 years old.
The legendary horn-blower landed his most famous gig after meeting Stones guitarist Keith Richards in the mid-’60s, forming a friendship with Richards that led to a professional collaboration, as Keys was featured on the band’s classic 1969 album Let It Bleed and many of their subsequent ’70s and ’80s releases. (That’s Keys on the famous extended jam section from Sticky Fingers’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’,” and on the solo to the band’s chart-topping “Brown Sugar.”)
Throughout the ’70s, Keys would play on releases by many of the decade’s biggest rock artists, including solo albums by both John Lennon and George Harrison, and signature LPs by the likes of Harry Nilsson (Nilsson Schmilsson) and Lynyrd Skynyrd (Second Helping). He also took part in the last known collaborative recording effort between Lennon and Paul McCartney, a 1974 jam session since bootlegged as A Toot and a Snore in ’74. The saxman was still touring with the Stones through 2014, before doctor’s orders following the diagnosis of his cirrhosis forced him to bow out. (According to an Oct. 25 wall post, Keys had still hoped to rejoin the band following the Australian leg of their tour.)
“He will be greatly missed as he touched so many lives and made a lasting contribution to the American music scene,” the Facebook eulogy continues, which is pretty hard to disagree with. Refamiliarize yourself with a couple of Keys’ most enduring performances below: