Booker T bassist Donald Dunn dies in Tokyo aged 70

Booker T and the MGs Dunn (third from left) played on dozens of legendary soul records

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Bass guitarist Donald "Duck" Dunn, who played with Booker T and the MGs, has died in Tokyo aged 70.

The MGs were the house band for Stax Records, and Dunn can be heard on songs such as Otis Redding's Respect and Sam and Dave's Hold On, I'm Comin'.

He was in Japan for a series of concerts, and had played two shows on Saturday night.

His friend and fellow musician Steve Cropper, who was on the same tour, said Dunn had died in his sleep.

"Today I lost my best friend," Cropper wrote on his Facebook page. "The World has lost the best guy and bass player to ever live".

Miho Harasawa, a spokeswoman for Tokyo Blue Note, the last venue Dunn played, confirmed he died alone early Sunday. She had no further details.

Famous fans

Born in Memphis on November 24, 1941, Dunn started playing bass at the age of 16.

"I tried the guitar but it had two strings too many," he wrote on his website.

"It was just too complicated, man! 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."

His distinctive grooves underpinned dozens of hit records for the legendary Stax label - including Soul Man and Try A Little Tenderness. The MGs scored their own hit with Green Onions in 1962.

McLemore Avenue by Booker T and the MGs The MGs were so enamoured with The Beatles' Abbey Road that they recorded their own version

"We were recording almost a hit a day for a while there," he said. "But I never knew how popular that music was until I came to England with Otis Redding in 1967."

That tour, which also featured Sam and Dave, Eddie Floyd, and Arthur Conley, was feted by Britain's rock royalty - many of whom had been influenced by the Stax house band.

Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, John Mayall, Roger Daltrey, Pete Townsend, and The Beatles all attended shows and, according to legend, The Beatles sent limousines to pick up the Stax crew each night after the shows.

In return, Booker T and the MGs covered the entire Beatles' Abbey Road album. Their version was called McLemore Avenue, which was the address of the Stax studio complex, and the cover mimicked the Fab Four's famous zebra crossing photo.

The band later provided backing for the John Lennon solo track Beef Jerky.

In his later career, Dunn worked with the likes of Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Stevie Nicks and Rod Stewart.

He played himself in the 1980 movie The Blues Brothers, and its 2000 sequel.

The MGs were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, and Dunn received a lifetime achievement Grammy award in 2007.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    So many great personal memories have his signature on them - from the Test Match theme, to the 'Green Onions' scene in Quadrophenia, to The Blues Brothers, to Booker T and the MGs backing Neil Young in Finsbury Park.... thanks Duck, and RIP.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Had the great pleasure of meeting Duck backstage at Top Rank Cardiff on the Stax tour in 67. What a gent, easy to talk too. Great memories of Otis, Sam and Dave Booker T and Wayne Jackson (trumpet). Their music stands the test of time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    For those who don't know who Duck Dunn was, I suggest you listen to some of the music mentioned in the article. He was one of the best bass players of this generation, and you're missing something special if you live out your life without ever listening to one of his bass lines in a tune. Not everything is about politics - we also need to acknowledge our souls.

    RIP Duck & thanks for the music.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    For us that still think and act young, but time is against us, we have to mourn the passing of another truly great musician who learnt his craft the hard way instead of the instant celebrity route of X-Factor, BGT. These people could play their instruments and have left a lasting legacy for true music fans to appreciate. From Green Onions, Time is Tight, to reprising himself in the Blues Brothers

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    It will be as difficult to find anybody who has a bad word to say about Donald 'Duck' Dunn as anyone who has never heard his music. We've lost one of the greats. But apart from being a bit young that wasn't a bad way to go, touring the world with your old friends to sell out concert halls. Go the Duck! RIP.


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