Bobby Keys dies: Rolling Stones saxophonist dies aged 70

He played on well-loved Stones tracks including Brown Sugar

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The Independent Online

Bobby Keys, the saxophonist celebrated for his solo on the Rolling Stones track Brown Sugar, has died at his home in Franklin, Tennessee. He was 70 years old.

Michael Webb, who played keyboard with Keys, confirmed that the saxophonist had died on Tuesday following a lengthy illness.

The Rolling Stones led tributes to Keys, and released a statement describing him as "legendary".

“The Rolling Stones are devastated by the loss of their very dear friend praised and legendary saxophone player, Bobby Keys.

"Bobby made a unique musical contribution to the band since the 1960s. He will be greatly missed."

The band’s guitarist, Keith Richards, who called Keys his soulmate and favourite musician partly because they share the same birthday, also wrote a heart-felt statement.

"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."

Saxophonist Bobby Keys pictured in 2012

Keys toured with the Stones earlier this year, before he was forced to stop when his health deteriorated. 

Born in Texas on 18 December 1943, Keys leant his talents to tracks for the Stones including Can’t You Hear Me Knocking and Sweet Virginia.

Other career highlights include appearances on John Lennon's chart-topping Whatever Gets You Through the Night, Talk is Cheap by Richards, as well as records by George Harrison, Barbra Streisand and Eric Clapton.

Famed for his heavy jowls and forceful style, Keys launched his career in the 1950s, when he played with Buddy Holly and The Crickets as a teen.

In the late 1960s, he met the Stones after they played the same show in San Antonio - but was distraught when the iconic band covered Holly’s Not Fade Away.

“I said, 'Hey, that was Buddy's song,”' Keys recalled in Richards' memoir Life, published in 2010. “Who are these pasty-faced, funny-talking, skinny-legged guys to come over here and cash in on Buddy's song?”

But when Keys decided the Stones were playing “actual rock and roll”, he recorded with them.

He would go on to play sporadically with the iconic band over the following decades.