RIP, Donald "Duck" Dunn

The incomparably rhythmic bass player Donald "Duck" Dunn, who was the soul of Booker T's rhythm section and the heart of the Blues Brothers' band, is dead. He died on tour with Steve "The Colonel" Cropper, also of the Blues Brothers, in Japan. He was 70.

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.

Booker T bassist Donald Dunn dies in Tokyo aged 70


  1. for a musician who’d played for so long and with such a wonderful array of musicians, it’s a bit sad that Dunn is mostly known for his work with the many convoluted versions of the silly Blues Brothers (Jim Belushi and John Goodman, anyone?) – if all he ever did was play on “Green Onions” that would be enough for a worthy obituary. Apparently he was doing work with Neil Young recently. What an MF MG!

    1. There is only one Blues Brothers band, and one Blues Brothers movie, period. That’s what he’s known to a lot of people for, not Goodman. He was a hired gun like anybody, though, so I can’t begrudge him any association with Jim Belushi.

      1. man… saw the blues brothers in concert in philly… duck on stage. they really delivered a show. shocked to hear he was in tokyo and had no idea!

    2. That’s the way it is with many artists. Danny Elfman has lamented that he will probably be most remembered for having written the theme song for The Simpsons, instead of the overwhelming mass of his other work. Well, worse things happen to people.

      1. Yes, when I hear those zany xylophone lines, I think of Elfman.  I liked his score to PeeWee’s Big Adventure anyway.  He is a decent orchestrator.

      2. At least Bob Mould has a few other things come to mind (Zen Arcade, Copper Blue, Workbook) besides the theme song for The Daily Show. 

        As covered by They Might Be Giants.

    3. The Blues Brothers, silly?

      If the shit fits, wear it.

      That shit doesn’t fit.

      Aside from creating one of the best-loved movies ever, the contribution those guys made to the music was immeasurable. In an age when disco was like a weed strangling everything, the Blues Brothers informed a generation about music most folks had unthinkingly set aside to gather dust, paying homage to a great legacy. Consequently, the careers of many blues artists were given new life, and the musical heritage of so many was enriched by prompting folks to have another look at the past.

      And you call that silly. What else is silly to you, I wonder?

      If I had a career that was overshadowed because I had a chance to participate in something so great, you wouldn’t find me grumbling about it.

      1. Saying “The Blues Brothers” movie informed a generation about music is like saying James Cameron’s “Titanic” informed a generation about boating safety.

        The whole Blues Brothers schtick started as part of a “Killer Bees” sketch on SNL and I don’t think the franchise ever rose above that shaky beginning. The BB movie simply reinforced (though comically) stereotypes about White men saving so-called Negro music. I would guess the people who made the most money off the Blues Brothers concept were Aykroyd and Belushi and the producers (Belushi would be dead in a couple of years). Whether any of the other multitude of “real” blues musicians in the movie (and moronic sequels) made any significant money is anyone’s guess…Aretha and Ray Charles were already established, top notch acts. John Lee Hooker’s career didn’t reach a crescendo until 7-10 years after the BB movie.

        I suppose The Blues Brothers film may have sparked a very small interest in R & B and upmarket Blues, but there was already a sizable Blues explosion in America at that time anyway (see: Stevie Ray Vaughn, Etta James, Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters constant touring, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and the rise of several major Blues Festivals in major US cities)

        1. Sorry, but you have the order of thing entirely wrong Mr. 80’s. Sure those acts existed,  but no one was paying any attention until Jake and Elwood did that first amazing skit on SNL.  I was teenager then and our music at the time WAS completely (unhappily) overwhelmed by disco (or worse, like REO Speedwagon…ugh).     The Blues Brothers broke through the noise in the late 70’s and delivered up a real music history lesson – and a wake-up call – that EVENTUALLY allowed those great bands you mentioned to “explode” in the ’80s.

          There is great throw-away shot, just as Jake and Elwood set out together, where they put an 8-track in the car stereo with a quick close-up of the label:  “Sam and Dave”.     I bought a Sam and Dave record the same day I bought the BB soundtrack.  It was  a whole new world to us.

          1. So, let me get this straight – up until your teenage viewing of “The Blues Brothers” you were listening to disco and REO Speedwagon. BUT, after you finished watching “The Blues Brothers” and exited the theater, you were somehow “cured” and started listening to “real music” – is this what you’re saying? 

            Somehow I find your instantaneous change in musical tastes hard to believe, but I’ll take your word for it. Sounds like “The Blues Brothers” is your true cinematic salvation and without it, you would still to this day be in your disco prison listening to REO Speedwagon. God bless you and your saviours, Jake and Elwood.

        2.  I would remind you that the Blues Brothers saved Aretha Franklin. She was dropped by her label at the time they rounded her up and got her to put a single that was out of print in their movie, and that movie is the reason she still has a career.

          Plus, aside from being a good movie, they went out of their way to round up a lot of outstanding musicians, many of whom (the majority of the actual Blues Brothers Band) were never big popular sensations, and getting them PAID at the height of the disco era. It’s an achievement on that front too.

    4. Nonsense. The worst aspect of the Blues Brothers is the fact it has been so adopted my frat-boy culture too many people can’t see the film for it’s own merits: It’s truly a classic film that still holds up well.  And everyone’s performances are great.

      Also, anyone lamenting the fact an artist was associated with something so popular that they could genuinely live a comfortable life is just disconnected from reality. It’s just hipster contrarianism that makes people “wince” at the Blues Brothers.

      1. Hmm, hipster contrarians… IIRC, twenty years ago they were isolated and few; these days they seem to be a force to be reckoned with.

    5. If you want to know what we’re talking about, check out the doco on the special features disc. It evokes new appreciation in much the same way as the Classic Albums series.

    6. re: “the silly Blues Brothers”

      It’s a real shame that such top flight musicians from a fading musical genre were  hilighted in such an iconic campy cult movie in which they GOT PAID.

    7. Why would thay even try to top the original film? Can’t be done it’s like the bible. May as well make the worst b-movie you can come up with and to hell with it. That was the BB 2000.

  2. I saw Duck play live one just one time – the final concert at the Winterland Auditorium where the Blues Brothers appeared with The Grateful Dead. Un-fucking-believable.

  3. Very, very sad.  R.I.P. He truly died doing what he loved; he was on tour with Eddie Floyd in Tokyo. Check out this clip of them playing last year.

  4. Duck Dunn was an incredible musician; the guy played with just about everybody and reinforced the heavy rhythm and blues sound that came out of Stax in the 60’s.  You read his resume and it’s staggering – you start wondering who he didn’t play with.

  5. RIP Duck, at age 5 the Blues Brothers changed my life and started me on the path to being a professional musician, and growing up discovering your work with Stax and beyond was a privilege. I will always be in awe of your groove.

  6. Count me as another one.  The reason I was listening to Booker T., Sam & Dave, John Lee Hooker, etc. in high school was the Blues Brothers. Duck Dunn was the real deal.

  7. Count me as another one.  The reason I was listening to Booker T., Sam & Dave, John Lee Hooker, etc. in high school was the Blues Brothers. Duck Dunn was the real deal.

  8. So, Duck is done. Duck Dunn knew what he done, and when he got that done, he done another.

    Regarding the Blues Brothers: forget the movie. Listen to the music they produced. 

  9. I saw Duck playing with Clapton back in the 80s.  Amazing.

    Just to throw my comment in to the whole Blues Brothers debate, it opened my ears to music I’d never heard of.

    Not only that, but have a look at the guest musicians in Blues Brothers 2000 while you’re busy slagging it off, especially the Louisiana Gator Boys – BB King,  Bo Diddley, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Vaughan, Skunk Baxter, Dr John, Steve Winwood, Gary US Bonds, Charlie Musselwhite, Clarence Clemons, Jack De Johnette, Isaac Hayes, Grover Washington Jr among others  – but also Wilson Pickett, Sam Moore, Aretha Franklyn, Eddie Floyd, Junior Wells, all legends, and watch the making of featurette on the DVD, and hear the joy coming off them of from working on the project.

    RIP Duck – I shed a little on Sunday!

  10. Yep Blues Brothers was and is a classic film, it got me into soul (as 80’s English chart music was mostly crap) and is probably the reason im a soul DJ! I can’t believe people would knock it just because it’s popular (then again I suppose this is the internet). Obviously forget the BB 2000 traversty but the original stands the test of time as a brilliant comedy/action/soul musical with some awsome performances on it. If you watch it and don’t enjoy it then I guess your missing what the whole film is about – soul. RIP DDD another great soul legend passes.

  11. As a bassist, I would like to throw down and say that Mr. Dunn was up there with James Jamerson and the rest. His mastery of the intangible bass “feel” was something that you could never TAB.

    1. Saw them at red Rocks 1981 – I was 13 and didn’t know much but danced the whole night as did the entire house- as good a time as the many Dead shows I went to at The rocks where the whole place danced also.

      Any wise ass out there try and pick up a bass and play “She caught the Katy” the BB version and get your face planted.

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