Donald “Duck” Dunn, bassist for Booker T. & the M.G.’s, the crack studio group for Stax Records during its peak years and fantastic hit-makers in their own right, passed away May 13 in Tokyo while on tour with his longtime guitarist band mate Steve Cropper. He was 70.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Dunn was a member of the Royal Spades and the Mar-Keys before joining Booker T. & the M.G.’s in 1964. With the latter, he was a crucial component in one of the greatest soul bands ever, laying down fluid, tight, and funky bass lines that were always economical and complementary, never show-offy. Besides his contributions to M.G.’s songs like “Time Is Tight,” “Soul Limbo,” “Melting Pot,” and “Hip Hug-Her,” Dunn played with Stax luminaries like Otis Redding, the Staple Singers, and Sam and Dave. In addition, Dunn loaned his talents to the late Levon Helm, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and many other classic rockers. In 1978, Dunn and Cropper also served as backing players for John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd’s Blues Brothers project and played themselves in The Blues Brothers movie.