TOKYO: Donald “Duck” Dunn, the bass player with Booker T and the MGs who helped shape the sound of the Memphis soul scene in the 1960s and 1970s, has died in Tokyo at the age of 70.
Dunn died in his sleep in a hotel room in the Japanese capital on Sunday after performing at Blue Note Tokyo, according to a Facebook entry of friend and fellow band member Steve Cropper.
A house bass player at the Stax label in Memphis, Dunn played on such classics as Otis Redding’s “Dock of the Bay” and “In the Midnight Hour” by Wilson Pickett.
His official discography spans four decades from the mid-1960s and features appearances alongside legends such as Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Muddy Waters and Eric Clapton.
Dunn earned himself a little Hollywood glitter when he appeared as himself in the 1980 cult classic “The Blues Brothers” starring comedians John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd.
“Today I lost my best friend, the world has lost the best guy and bass player to ever live,” Cropper, who played guitar with Booker T and the MGs, said in a brief Facebook message posted Sunday.
Cropper and Dunn, the two white members of the band, played alongside keyboardist Booker T Jones and drummer Al Jackson, who were both black, making the band a beacon of racial integration during the civil rights years.
Born in 1941 in Memphis, Dunn picked up the ukulele when he was around 10 years old, and moved on to the bass at 16, according to his official website.
“I tried the guitar but it had two strings too many. It was just too complicated, man!” he said.
“Plus, I grew up with Steve Cropper. There were so many good guitar players another one wasn’t needed. What was needed was a bass.”
He formed a band with Cropper, who later became a full-time session player at the Stax studio in the Tennessee capital – a role Dunn followed.
“Man, we were recording almost a hit a day for a while there,” he later said.
In 1964 he joined Booker T and the MG’s, which had already enjoyed electrifying success with tracks including “Green Onions”.
In a message on his website, frontman Jones expressed his sadness over Dunn’s death, saying the loss marked the passing of another of the legendary artists who had helped shape the sound of the 1960s and 1970s.
“God is calling names in the music world. He gave us these treasures and now he is taking them back,” Jones said.
“I can’t imagine not being able to hear Duck laugh and curse, but I’m thankful I got to spend time and make music with him,” he said.
“His intensity was incomparable. Everyone loved him. None more than Otis Redding.”
“Thank you all for your prayers and condolences, and just know that Duck is somewhere smiling down on all of us saying, ‘Got Damn!!!’.”
More in Life & Style‘Coke Studio 5’: That didn’t impress us much