I was saddened to learn this evening of the passing of the great session bassist, and longtime member of Booker T and the MGs, Donald “Duck” Dunn. His story is a great example of the notion that a musician doesn’t have to become hugely famous in order to do great things. Dunn joined the MGs in 1965; prior to that, he was the regular bassist with the Bar-Kays, another instrumental group that, like the MGs, played on numerous Stax sessions. Looking at a list of recordings that Dunn participated in is like leafing through a history of pop, soul and R&B: Wilson Picket’s In the Midnight Hour, numerous Otis Redding records, including Sitting On the Dock of the Bay, Presenting Issac Hayes (another Stax regular who frequently sat in with the MGs when Booker T. Jones was unavailable), The Staples Singers’ Soul Folk in Action, Albert King’s King of the Blues Guitar, Delaney and Bonnie’s Home, Mitch Ryder’s The Detroit Memphis Experiment, among numerous other recordings. He was a participant in both Blues Brothers movies, hand-picked by Dan Aykroid. It is also interesting to note that Booker T and the MGs were among the first racially integrated bands in rock/pop music.
As a tribute to Donald “Duck” Dunn, we started the show with the London set from Otis Redding’s 1967 album Live in Europe, with the MGs playing:
- Respect – although Aretha Franklin’s version is more well known, Redding actually wrote the song, and recorded it with Dunn and the MGs in 1965, whereas Franklin recorded her version in ’67. Attentive listeners will notice the lyrical differences.
- My Girl – the Temptations song
- Day Tripper (a soul rendition of the Beatles classic)
- Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)
- (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – Redding does the Rolling Stones
- Try A Little Tenderness
We then heard three songs from Booker T and the MGs:
- Green Onion (this was prior to Dunn joining the MGs. The bassist here was Lewie Steinberg, the MG’s original bassist)
- Sunday Sermon (1970 b-side with a rather prominent bass line)
- Soul Limbo
I had received a request a few weeks ago for a certain song from Joy Division, following my New Order set. While I neglected to bring that song this evening, I would hope that a nice live Joy Division set would make up for the omission (I had actually thought that I had a live rendition of the song in question, which in fact I do not have). From a January 198o live recording, we heard New Dawn Fades, Transmission, Disorder, and Isolation.
We then heard a few from the NYC band Interpol, who have been accused from time to time (especially in their early days) of being Joy Division clones. I don’t know that I would agree with this, but one must say that there are worse things for a band to be referred to than as “Joy Division clones”. From their 2004 album Antics, we heard Evil, Narc and Not Even Jail.
It is hard for me to resist the music of Loretta Lynn. Her songwriting is personal and distinct, with strong story-telling images that don’t rely on the story to leave an image Tonight we heard You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man), Don’t Come Home A-Drinking (With Loving On Your Mind), and Woman Of The World (Leave My World Alone).
I had brought some Benny Goodman last week, but was unable to get around to it. But such is the advantage of my musical selection process: if I miss something one week, I usually end up leaving it out around the house (inadvertently), in a handy place where I can find it and utilize it for the next week’s show. Such is the case this week, as we managed to put together a lovely set from the live recording from Goodman’s legendary January 1938 appearance at Carnegie Hall in New York City. From the fairly recent remaster of this excellent 2 disc live album we heard Blue Skies, Loch Lomond (with vocalist Martha Tipton), Blue Room, Swingtime in the Rockies, and Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen (again with Martha Tipton).
I was pleased to read this week that Alice in Chains are beginning the work for a new album (I’ve also heard similar hints this week from the Deftones, although theirs is a bit more abstract: they’ve been posting pictures of mixing boards and amps on their Facebook page). So we closed tonight’s show with a couple of AIC songs: All Secrets Known (from their most recent album, Black Gives Way To Blue), and Angry Chair (a Layne Staley composition from Dirt).
- R.I.P. Booker T. & the MGs’ Bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn (pitchfork.com)
- Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn of Booker T and the MGs dies at 70 – msnbc.com (entertainment.msnbc.msn.com)
- Soul bassist Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn dies in Tokyo (telegraph.co.uk)
- Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn, bassist for Booker T. and MGs, dies in Tokyo (tbo.com)
- Bassist Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn dead at 70 (nydailynews.com)
- Duck Dunn, Bassist in Booker T. and the MG’s, Dies at 70 (nytimes.com)