Donald “Duck” Dunn died yesterday on tour in Tokyo at the age of 70. Dunn was the bassist who played on just about every great record produced at Stax in the 1960’s. He joined the Stax house band — Booker T. & the MG’s (Booker T. Jones on organ, Steve Cropper on guitar and Al Jackson on drums) — in 1964. Dunn and the crew backed Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Albert King and the other great Stax artists at the heart of the sixties soul awakening. When you hear one of the great singles recorded at Stax, that’s Dunn on bass, as in the incredible video below with Sam and Dave performing “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby.”
In the rare video footage below, Booker T. & the MG’s perform “Time Is Tight” in 1970 while the members of Creedence Clearwater Revival — a pretty good band in its own right — look on from the wings in wonderment.
Cropper and Dunn played together from the time they were teen-agers and had a lifelong friendship. These guys loved each other. Cropper announced Dunn’s death on Facebook and on Twitter, where he concisely summed up the loss: “Today I lost my best friend, the World has lost the best guy and bass player to ever live.” The AP obituary quotes Dunn:
Dunn once said that he and Cropper were “like married people.”
“I can look at him and know what he’ll order for dinner,” he said. “When we play music together we both know where we’re going.”
For more, see Peter Guralnick’s invaluable Sweet Soul Music, a book I have only mentioned here about a hundred times before.
I had the good fortune to see Booker T. & the MG’s perform in Minneapolis at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in 2007. We gave them a heartfelt standing ovation as they left the stage, yet Cropper lingered with his arms upraised to make an important announcement: “Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn, everybody, the greatest!” RIP.