Donald "Duck" Dunn, 1941–2012

GRAMMY-winning bassist and Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient dies at 70
  • Photo: Rick Diamond/
    Donald "Duck" Dunn speaks at The Recording Academy's Special Merit Awards Ceremony on Feb. 10, 2007, in Los Angeles
May 14, 2012 -- 10:24 am PDT
By Dan Aykroyd /

(As a member of Booker T. & The MG's, Donald "Duck" Dunn was honored with The Recording Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. The following tribute to the band, written by Dan Aykroyd, ran in the GRAMMY Awards program book that year. Dunn died May 13 at the age of 70.)

As the creators of their own unique soul sound and as the house band on countless hit records that defined the sound of the South in the '60s and '70s at Stax Records, Booker T. & The MG's — guitarist Steve Cropper, bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn, drummer Al Jackson, organist Booker T. Jones, and original bassist Lewie Steinberg — have become giants of American music.

The Great African-American Songbook has yielded numerous pieces of music for all the times in our lives. Songs that we will associate always with specific places, people and events. The most powerful is that sure touch on our nation's pulse, the ubiquitous classic "Green Onions." This giant composition never fails to stir rhythm in our blood, whether we hear it played on a pirated download, in TV and radio commercials, or live onstage by both imitators and its originators. It got a generation through its war and forever became the official theme for U.S. motorheads when George Lucas laid it into the American Graffiti soundtrack with complete emotional effectiveness.

Booker T. Jones' deep burbling organ, the drive of Duck Dunn's stone-solid bassbone with Steve Cropper's guitar-funk crying throughout make this urban soul march a vibrant anthem, which like all great music transcends geographical borders.

This song is the flagship of the Stax-Volt movement. Like any classic it doesn't age. It sounds better and wholly contemporary with every listening. Serious, bad, tough, and exciting. Booker T & The MG's' "Green Onions" is a song for a time, for all times, for all peoples, for all places — one for our planet to share until the end of existence.

(Academy Award and GRAMMY-nominated actor/writer Dan Aykroyd co-wrote and starred in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers, which prominently featured Booker T & The MG's members Steve Cropper and Donald "Duck" Dunn.)

Email Newsletter