Keys had been battling the disease cirrhosis and passed away this morning (Dec. 2) at his home in Franklin, Tenn., Nashville Scene reports. Michael Webb, a keyboardist who had performed with Keys in his band Bobby Keys and the Suffering Bastards, confirmed his death to the Scene.
The saxophonist had performed with the Rolling Stones for over 40 years after meeting the band at a fair in San Antonio, Texas, in 1964. From there, he performed on every Stones album between 1969 and 1974, and then every record from 1980 to present.
Among many of his contributions to the Rolling Stones, Keys’ most timeless contribution may be his solo on the 1971 song “Brown Sugar.”
However, Keys did not only work with the Rolling Stones.
But wait, there’s more! KZOK’s Scott Vanderpool elaborates ad nauseam:
Keith Richards is no doubt devastated. Bobby was his best friend in the world, as Keith tells in his 2010 autobiography Life. Bobby had played with Buddy Holly live, touring with The Crickets when he was just 15 years old. So when this group of 5 pale skinny British rockers showed up in his native Texas touting a cover of Buddy’s Not Fade Away, a highly skeptical Bobby came to see The Rolling Stones, but ended up quite liking them. When he went backstage to chat after, he and Keith found they shared the same birthday: December 18th, 1943. It didn’t hurt that Keys had played with Holly, and Keith, an only child, always considered Bobby the brother he’d never had. Here’s a clip of Bobby and Keith showing their mutual love of television:
The two did like to self-medicate together, which got Keys booted from the band by an angry Mick Jagger on their 1973 tour, when he “missed some shows”. According to one urban legend, Bobby had filled his hotel bathtub with expensive Dom Perignon champagne, drinking most of it as he wallowed, completely forgetting he was supposed to be on stage. Keith had him back in the band by 1981. Here’s a video clip of Bobby with The Stones, listening to a playback of the recently-recorded Brown Sugar in 1969:
Perhaps his most enduring contribution to The Stones is the classic sax-solo on Can’t You Hear Me Knocking:
Bobby Keys had played with John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band, and was a member of the “posse” for John’s famous 1974 “Lost Weekend”, along with Harry Nilsson, Ringo Starr, and Keith Moon. Here’s another of Bobby’s more famous sax solos:
In the late 80’s Ron Wood made him “musical director” of his Miami nightclub Woody’s On The Beach, and in his first week on the job had Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, and the surviving members of Buddy Holly’s Crickets playing there.
He was a sought-after session player who added his saxophone to records by George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Joe Cocker, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Carly Simon, Eric Clapton, Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, The Faces, Harry Nilsson, Donovan, Dr. John, Humble Pie, Graham Nash, and Warren Zevon, to name but a few.