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*Debbie Duncan was born on this date in 1951. She was a Black jazz singer and arranger.
Born in Memphis, TN, Debbie Lucille Duncan was the daughter of Lucille Bernice and William Edward Duncan. She grew up in Detroit in a music-loving family. She majored in flute and studied voice at Wayne State University, spent several years singing in Los Angeles clubs, and came to Minneapolis in 1984 for what was supposed to be a six-week gig at Rupert’s nightclub in Golden Valley.
It lasted seven years. By then, she was in a quartet with pianist Don Stille, Gary Raynor on bass, and Phil Hey on drums. She made Minneapolis her home, won several Minnesota Music Awards, and recorded five albums. We lost track long ago of how many times we’ve seen her on stage – at the “old Dakota” in Bandana Square and the “new Dakota” on Nicollet Mall (language regulars still use, though the move took place in 2003), at the Artists’ Quarter, Vieux Carré, the Times Bar & Café and the Sofitel (all closed now) and the Twin Cities Jazz Festival, where she sometimes sang multiple gigs.
She was a regular at Crooners. She sang at the Capri, the Chanhassen, and the Minnesota State Fair. She developed a reputation as the “working-est singer” in the Twin Cities. Duncan opened for Herbie Hancock, DeeDee Bridgewater, Miles Davis, and Lou Rawls when they came through Minneapolis or St. Paul. She did some touring Paris, New York, and Qatar (she always wanted to travel more). When she wasn’t singing, she was out on the town, listening to other singers and bands, a consistently positive show of support. Debbie Duncan died on December 18, 2020.