Friday, 18 May 2012

Time Is Tight ... RIP Donald "Duck" Dunn

This is a much belated post, but I could not not pay tribute to one of the most important rhythm players in soul music. I found out about Dunn's death on Facebook while doing my radio show last Sunday afternoon; he had died that morning in Tokyo while on tour with a few of his Memphis soul colleagues, namely guitarist Steve Cropper and singer Eddie Floyd. Curiously enough, I was in the middle of a short set of Stax-Volt songs, all of which Dunn had played bass on. I decided then and there to extend that set and make a short announcement. I played the Booker T and the MGs version of "Summertime" (from their sophomore album ... And Now!) which, despite the title, sounded very mournful.

Dunn joined Stax Records in 1961 (when it was still called Satellite Records) along with the band that would be named the Mar-Keys. Their song "Last Night" went from being a regional to being a national hit immediately.

Spending a couple of years away from Stax, Dunn returned to the fold to join the label's de facto house band the MGs (for Memphis Group) lead by organist Booker T Jones. The band had just scored a hit in 1962 with the mellow instrumental "Green Onions". On MGs, Mar-Keys (they had one more hit in 1966 with "Philly Dog") and other artists' work, Dunn laid down some funky basslines.

In the tense atmosphere of late 60s/early 70s, post-King assassination Memphis, the interracial harmony of the band, as well as the label, fractured. Jones left the MGs in 1970. The band continued in various forms until Stax went bankrupt in 1976. Dunn continued to record and play in the years afterward, famously as part of the band in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers.

A dedicated musician, Dunn died while doing the thing he loved most.

Dunn's music is the foundation of so much of what have heard in music since then. His bassline is ours.

Rest in peace.

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