Donald “Duck” Dunn, bass player for the influential studio band Booker T. and the MGs, died this morning at the age of 70.
Dunn was in Japan at the time, playing a series of shows at the Blue Note in Tokyo. Steve Cropper, Dunn’s friend and bandmate who was on the same tour in Japan, announced the bassist’s passing on his Facebook page:
“Today I lost my best friend, the World has lost the best guy and bass player to ever live. Duck Dunn died in his sleep Sunday morning May 13 in Tokyo Japan after finishing 2 shows at the Blue Note Night Club.”
Dunn was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1941. He met Cropper in high school, where the two formed their first band, the Royal Spades. After changing their name to the Mar-Keys, they scored a hit in 1961 with the song “Last Night.” In 1964, Cropper invited Dunn to join Booker T. and the MGs, the house band for Stax Records. While the band had a number of instrumental hits in their own right, including “Green Onions” and “Time is Tight,” their backing role for Stax stars like Otis Redding, the Staple Singers and Sam and Dave helped define the sound of Southern soul.
After the MGs split up in 1971, Dunn found work playing as a session musician, recording with Eric Clapton, Levon Helm and Bob Dylan, among others. In 1978, Dunn and Cropper joined Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi as back-up for the Blues Brothers on their album Briefcase Full of Blues and later played themselves in the duo’s movies.
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As a member of Booker T. and the MGs (who would reunite periodically over the years), Dunn was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys in 2007.