Yesterday, as we were setting up to do our Americarnage Live! show at Bodeans in Tower Hill, Erik Janssen arrived and told me that Duck Dunn had just died. Dunn was the bass player in Booker T and the MGs, and in an odd bit of synchronicity, I had originally decided to use their 'Time Is Tight' as my entrance music for the show. But we changed it, for something more jokey and dramatic (the theme to The Good The Bad And The Ugly, which is also the ringtone for text messages on my phone), so I wasn't able to pay immediate tribute to Duck then.
The things with Booker T, and the whole Stax sound, were that they appeared to have such fun while playing their tightly-rehearsed spontaneous music, and that they were multi-racial in a time when such a thing was a beacon to those who still believed real integration was possible, and that all sorts of music were possible under the umbrella of 'rock', everything from blues to bluegrass, from In A Gadda Da Vida to Bitches Brew, American Beauty to America.
Robert Collins posted on Facebook a clip from the 1966 Stax/Volt Review European Tour, of Sam & Dave doing 'Hold On, I'm Comin' (link to it here). It's fantastic, Sam and Dave the way I remember seeing them live in May of 1969, a night that will live forever in my personal store of memories. But check out Duck and Steve Cropper on guitar, in matching suits, and the horn section in their own matching suits, including Andrew Love and Wayne Jackson. I'd seen the Chambers Brothers on New Year's Eve 68/69; the Mahavishnu Orchestra with its Miles alumni, Charles Lloyd's group with Keith Jarrett (though in fairness, everyone then assumed he was black!) and it seemed the rainbow coalition had already arrived.
Social issues apart, Duck and Steve Cropper would play together all over the place. Most people know them from the Blues Brothers Band, but it's also interesting to see Booker T playing on tour with Neil Young (here's another you tube link) where they're content to take the same backseat, even when Young does 'Dock Of The Bay'. I've never found a really good quality bootleg of that tour, but it's fascinating to see the range of styles the Memphis guys are comfortable behind. And Duck has the greatest bobblehead rhythm-keeping of any bassist anywhere.
Al Jackson died in a so-called burglary, which may have been a murder, back in 1975. Duck was only 70, and now half the band is gone. Time is indeed tight. Listen to it here. It now seems to resonate with sadness...