He’s remembered for being a member of Dan Akroyd and John Belushi’s comedy revue outfit the Blues Brothers and for his long-term membership of session stars Booker T and the MGs.
With that band he laid down bass lines on Otis Redding’s Respect, Sam and Dave’s Hold On I’m Coming and Albert King’s Born Under a Bad Sign, among many others. He went on to play with Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Rod Stewart, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Jerry Lee Lewis, Levon Helm and Freddy King.
In the Blues Brothers’ 1980 movie he was given the line: “We had a band powerful enough to turn goat piss into gasoline.”
Dunn was semi-retired, partly caused by back problems which made walking painful. But he had just completed a five-night tour of Japan, ending with two shows in the Blue Note Night Club in Tokyo. He’d been playing as part of the Stax Show with MGs guitarist Steve Cropper and Stax singer Eddie Floyd.
Cropper said via Facebook: “Today I lost my best friend. The world has lost the best guy and bass player to live, ever.”
The Memphis, Tennessee-born musician started playing bass when he was 16, explaining: “I tried the guitar but it had two strings too many. 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.”
Cropper once said Dunn’s playing was unique because he played what he thought should be there to fill any gaps in the music, adding his riffs weren’t “locked in somebody’s schoolbook somewhere.”
Although connected with MGs hit Green Onions, he didn’t play on the original track since it was recorded before he joined the band in 1964.
Billy Sheehan, bassist with Mr Big, said: “Rest in peace, Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn. Superb bass player, wonderful guy. My condolences to your family and friends.” Blockheads guitarist Lee Harris called him “one of the best bass players to ever grace our ears.”
-Classic Rock Magazine