Memphis soul bassist 'Duck' Dunn dies

Bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn, left, played in the influential soul band Booker T. and the MGs, pictured circa 1965.

Story highlights

  • "I've rarely had tears come so quickly," Booker T. Jones says
  • Bass player "Duck" Dunn dies in Tokyo at age 70
  • He was part of Booker T. and the MGs and the Blues Brothers
  • His credits include "The Dock of the Bay" and "In the Midnight Hour"

Donald "Duck" Dunn, the bass player who laid the musical floor beneath soul legends like Booker T. and the MGs, Sam and Dave and Otis Redding, has died at age 70, his family announced Sunday.

Dunn was part of the house band at Memphis, Tennessee's Stax Records, the R&B powerhouse that turned out hits like "(Sittin' on) the Dock of the Bay," "In the Midnight Hour" and "Soul Man." He was also a member of the Blues Brothers, the band that backed up comedians John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd in their "Saturday Night Live" appearances and film.

"Duck Dunn was the backbone of the Stax/Volt era," Aykroyd said in a written statement. "He was and will remain universally loved by all that knew him. His talent, knowledge and warmth, and especially his humor will be greatly missed."

Dunn died in his sleep in Tokyo after playing dates that had been postponed after the 2011 Japanese earthquake, his son told CNN.

"They were over there doing five shows in a row, two shows every night -- and for a 70-year-old guy, that was quite a bit of work," Jeff Dunn said. The musician had gone back to his hotel after their last show and died before catching a flight back to the United States, his son said.

Dunn was touring Japan with two fellow Stax veterans, singer Eddie Floyd and guitarist Steve Cropper. In a statement on his website, Cropper said, "Today I lost my best friend, and the world has lost the best guy and bass player to ever live."

Cropper and Dunn were high school classmates who joined Stax in the early 1960s to play with Booker T. and the MGs, which underpinned the label's lineup. The group's leader, Booker T. Jones, mourned Dunn in a statement on his own website, saying, "It was totally unexpected, and I've rarely had tears come so quickly."

When Stax folded in the mid-1970s, Dunn and Cropper became top session players, Dunn played with Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan and Levon Helm, the former lead singer of The Band, who died in April. Dunn was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Booker T. and the MGs in 1992, and they received a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2007.

Jeff Dunn said the family had no information about the cause of death. A memorial service will be held in Memphis at a yet-to-be-determined date, he said.

People we've lost in 2012: The lives they lived

      CNN Recommends

    • pkg clancy north korea nuclear dreams_00002004.jpg

      North Korea nuclear dream video

      As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
    • Photos: Faces of the world

      Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
    • pkg rivers uk football match fixing_00005026.jpg

      How to fix a soccer match

      Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
    • No Eiffel Towers, Statues of Liberties, Mt. Rushmores, Taj Mahals, Aussie koalas or Chairman Maos.

      15 biggest souvenir-buying no-no's

      It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.