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Bobby Keys, longtime saxophonist for the Rolling Stones, died on Tuesday at his home in Franklin, Tenn., after a long illness. He was 70.
"The Rolling Stones are devastated by the loss of their very dear friend and legendary saxophone player, Bobby Keys," the band said in a statement. "Bobby made a unique musical contribution to the band since the 1960s. He will be greatly missed."
Keys was still a teenager when he played sax for Buddy Holly in the 1950s and later performed with John Lennon, George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Joe Cocker, in addition to the Stones.
"He was a good friend and an inspiration to play with," said longtime friend and Nashville rock veteran Michael Webb, who performed with Keys in a band of Southern rock all-stars, Bobby Keys and the Suffering Bastards. Webb said Keys had a liver ailment and had been in and out of the hospital in the past two months.
Keys wrote of his struggles with heroin and life with the Stones in the autobiography "Every Night's a Saturday Night."
Keys was not a full-time member of the Stones but frequently led the horn section when the band went into the studio or on the road. Some of his best work can be heard on the songs "Can't You Hear Me Knocking," "Live With Me," "Brown Sugar" and "Emotional Rescue."
Born in Slaton, Texas, Keys never learned to read music. "That's not where I come from musically," he told Rolling Stone magazine. "I come strictly from feeling, and that feeling comes from rock 'n' roll."