Donald "Duck" Dunn, who died Sunday at age 70 in Tokyo only hours after playing his final show with longtime friend Steve Cropper, was part of one of soul music's greatest rhythm sections.
Dunn was a self-taught bass player who had been playing in bands with Cropper since they were both in high school together in Memphis. A call from Cropper brought Dunn to Stax Records in 1964, where he become part of Booker T and the MG's, a biracial quartet that played on some of the era's biggest hits.
With Cropper, Dunn, keyboardist Booker T. Jones and drummer
Though not often heralded as the singers whose names were featured on the singles and album covers, Jackson’s drums and Dunn’s bass were critical elements in virtually every track cut at Stax, including hits by
Dunn, like the rhythm section he served, was a largely unsung musical hero. Here are the best soul rhythm sections of all time:
Booker T. and the MG's: The house band on countless hits for the Stax label out of Memphis, the MG's provided a harder edged response to Motown's more refined chart dominance during the '60s. The bass-drums interaction of "Duck" Dunn and Al Jackson Jr. remains the gold standard in soul.
The Funk Brothers: The Motown rhythm section during the '60s and '70s had a busier but no less potent and influential style than the MG's, with more of a jazz background bubbling through in the playing of bassist James Jamerson and drummer Benny Benjamin.
The Meters: Bassist George Porter Jr. and drummer Zigaboo Modeliste defined New Orleans' funk, slicing up beats and syncopations for classic sides by the likes of Dr. John and Lee Dorsey.
Muscle Shoals: The northern Alabama town of Muscle Shoals became a soul epicenter in the ‘60s and ‘70s, thanks to the work of the studio’s peerless house band, which included bassist David Hood and drummer Roger Hawkins. Their work can be heard on hits by everyone from the