Legendary bass player Donald “Duck” Dunn died in his sleep today in Tokyo at the age of 70.
Dunn’s death was announced by his longtime friend and band mate, Steve Cropper.
“Today I lost my best friend, the World has lost the best guy and bass player to ever live,” Cropper wrote on his Facebook page.
Dunn had completed two shows at the Blue Note Nightclub in Tokyo, Cropper said.
The bass player with an inimitable bluesy sound was born in Memphis in 1941 and got his name from his father after watching a Donald Duck cartoon on TV.
Dunn dabbled in the family candy making business, but was eager to follow his passion for music. He later recalled the first time he picked up a guitar at age 16.
“It had two strings too many. 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,” he said.
He bought a new Kay bass, one of the cheaper models, he said, and the rest was history.
After high school, Dunn joined Booker T & The MGs, the house band at soul/R&B label Stax, where he performed on tracks for music heavyweights, including Otis Redding, Neil Young and Eric Clapton. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.
Dunn accepted a lifetime achievement Grammy Award in 2007 for his work with Booker T & The MGs.
He was handpicked by Saturday Night Live stars John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd to play in The Blues Brothers Band and appeared as himself in the 1980 cult film.
“I like to keep things spontaneous,” he said of live shows with Belushi and Aykroyd. “That’s my way of playing. Even though we were playing the same songs every night I like to think I can change it a little bit and use my input or creativity or whatever in any way that makes the band feel better. If I make the band smile, I make everybody smile.”