Bobby Keys, the longtime saxophone player for the Rolling Stones, has died. He was 70 and had been ill for some time. In a statement, the Stones said they’re “devastated by the loss of their very dear friend” and that Keys “made a unique musical contribution to the band since the 1960s.”
The Lubbock, Texas native started working with the Stones in the late ’60s following a stint with fellow Texans Buddy Holly And The Crickets. He appeared on three of the group’s most acclaimed records—Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile On Main Street—and his solo on “Brown Sugar” led to him being billed in clubs as “Mr. Brown Sugar” for a good portion of his life.
Keys also features prominently in Stones tracks like “Sweet Virginia” and “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” as well as John Lennon’s “Whatever Gets You Through The Night.” Keys’ self-titled solo record featured contributions from both George Harrison and Ringo Starr.
Born the same day as Keith Richards—Dec. 18, 1943—Keys was one of the Stones’ guitarist’s best friends and features prominently in Richards’ 2010 memoir, Life. The pair reportedly threw TVs from hotel balconies and dabbled in drugs together, and Richards penned the foreward to Keys’ 2012 autobiography, Every Night’s A Saturday Night. Richards tweeted yesterday that Keys was his “largest pal,” and that he “can’t express the sense of sadness [he feels], although Bobby would tell [him] to cheer up.”