Fund for Debbie

Thank you to everyone who contributed your generous support to the fund for Debbie’s care.  As you know by now, we disabled donations to this fund on December 17 and Debbie passed away on December 18. Information regarding a memorial service and celebration of her life is at the bottom of this post.
Here’s an update on where this fund is now and what the upcoming plans are to grieve, honor, and celebrate Debbie.
First, some background on who “we” are.  “We” are friends and close associates of Debbie who have worked with, supported, and been honored to be part of her life for many years. We had been working to help Debbie in her projected long-term care challenges after she suffered her strokes several months ago. We committed to make sure Debbie’s expenses would be covered for as long as necessary, and we hope dearly that would lead to her recovery. I (Lowell Pickett) set up the GoFundMe page with that purpose.
I first met Debbie through Gary Raynor, a mainstay of Minnesota’s music scene and great bass player soon after she moved to Minnesota to work at Rupert’s Nightclub. Debbie and Gary started performing at Faegre’s restaurant, which I co-owned. When the Dakota opened in 1985, Debbie became a mainstay, usually performing between 2 and 4 times a week. We did everything we could to elevate her national profile as one of our great jazz singers while treasuring every performance she gave locally. We presented her at the Guthrie Theater. We introduced her to national artists and agents and promoted her whenever and however we could. Her two live albums were recorded at the Dakota.  Our relationship is deep and long. I, among many, loved her dearly.
I disabled the GoFundMe donations on Dec 17 when the care facility made it apparent that Debbie would not survive. By that time, donors – all of you – had generously contributed $24,191 toward the $50,000 goal.  After GoFundMe fees, the net balance is $23,384.83.  To date, Debbie’s final expenses total $18,663. These include her rent and utilities, ambulance, expenses at North Memorial Hospital not covered by insurance, daily charges from Brookview Care Center, cremation services, and projected costs for Debbie’s memorial service on February 6.
We anticipate a balance will remain after these expenses. There are offers to contribute more to this amount and we’ve discussed events that would add even more to it. We want to use this as the seed money for a fund in Debbie’s name what would provide easily accessible micro-grants to help musicians who have an acute financial need. These would be low barrier grants initially intended to offer some relief for musicians affected by COVID 19.  Over time, we hope this would evolve into an ongoing legacy that reflects and honors the incredible generosity of spirit that Debbie exuded to everyone in her orbit.
Mixed Blood Theater has agreed to be a non-profit partner in this program.  If appropriate, a separate entity might be created to perpetuate this effort.  As this develops, more news will follow.
Once again, thank you all.
A memorial  event "Celebrating the Life of Debbie Duncan" will be held on Saturday, February 6th at 3:00 PM (CST).  A musical prelude will start 15 to 20 minutes prior to the service which will be live-streamed from Unity Minneapolis.  More details will be available soon. Please save the date and join us as we remember, honor and celebrate the life and legacy of this beloved Minnesota musical treasure. 

Live-stream of the service will be available at:


Debbie Duncan passed away at 3:30 am on Friday, December 18. It is with immense sadness that we share this news.
There has been an outpouring of grief from her many friends who loved her dearly and from the thousands of fans who only knew her though her life affirming musical gifts.  This time of COVID has been so difficult for many reasons, including preventing the kind of large gathering that we should be holding, a place to share stories and celebrate the life of this remarkable woman.  This will happen when we’re through this pandemic. And we are sure that there will be a number of memorials.
We will be using this fund to pay for Debbie’s final expenses. After those costs are addressed, those of us who set up this fund have agreed to create a living legacy that honors Debbie.  We are still working out the details, but basically, it will be a fund in Debbie’s name for grants to musicians who have acute immediate needs.  Debbie was one of the most generous souls most of us have ever known, and it seems fitting to honor her legacy in a way that reflects her spirited and soulful generosity.
We will update this page with more details after the Holidays. In the meantime, thank all of you who have contributed with donations, thoughts, prayers, tears and condolences to the care and memory of our friend, Debbie Duncan.


Debbie is referred to as the 1st Lady of Song in the Minnesota Music community and around the world.  Jon Bream from The Minneapolis Star Tribune put it this way, “Once you hear Debbie Duncan, you probably won’t think of any other singer, she’s that commanding.”  Debbie has amazed audiences from Minneapolis to Paris and everywhere in between. She had a day proclaimed in her honor on August 24, 2018, officially known as "Debbie Duncan Day”, celebrating her contributions of time and talent. She received so many Minnesota Music Awards that they finally just made one up just for her - "Perpetually Outstanding." And if anyone in the music community has needed help, Debbie has been there for them.


  • Karen Lyu
    • $12 
    • 3 yrs
  • Liza Lawrence
    • $10 
    • 3 yrs
  • Anonymous
    • $50 
    • 3 yrs
  • Pamela Parker
    • $100 
    • 3 yrs
  • Geralyn M Barosso
    • $100 
    • 3 yrs


Lowell Pickett
Minneapolis, MN

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