The tag line for the documentary is “Before There Was Punk, There Was…Death“. Punk? I was sold.
Every time I’ve discovered new music, for a while it seemed that it was brother who was introducing me to something that lovingly invaded my ears, this time though it came from a most unlikely source: Scott Lucas of Local H. I’m not ashamed to admit that I tend to listen and take suggestions from people. Well, out there in the Webisphere, Scott Lucas had more than once mentioned this documentary called A Band Called Death. The tag line for the documentary is “Before There Was Punk, There Was…Death“. Punk? I was sold.
… Once again, the black man surfaces to enrich our lives with influential music.
Folks, what’s to say, this is a mother fucker of an album. In just seven tracks of awesomeness, I was more than just sold. If you have not heard of Death, that’s quite alright because you can discover them now. Death a proto-punk band that formed in Detroit, Michigan in 1971 by brothers, Bobby (bass, vocals), David (guitar), and Dannis (drums) Hackney. These three awesome African Americans (That’s right. Once again, the black man surfaces to enrich our lives with influential music. What? You want to contest me? Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, Death. Rock N’ Roll will live forever thanks to their contributions to the genre.)
Death was on a fiery rock n’ roll roller coaster …
In the documentary, we discover the Brothers Hackney through their origins in Detroit Rock City. The brothers started out as an R&B group, but that all changed once The Who came into their lives. The Who along with Alice Cooper inspired the brothers enough to change their sound. David was the one who named the group Death in an attempt to put a positive spin on such a negative term. The brothers taught themselves their respective instruments and away they went. In 1974, Death recorded their album, For the Whole World to See, for Detroit’s United Sound Studios. Death was on a fiery rock n’ roll roller coaster, but nothing came from the United Sound deal. They asked for, and received the masters to their album where they shopped the album around to various record labels; but alas their band name hindered them from garnering any sort of deal from any of them. Clive Davis, then the president of Arista Records did offer them a solid deal if they would only change their name. Bobby and Dannis were gung ho for the name change, David, on the other hand stuck to his guns. Bobby and Dannis followed David’s lead, and the deal fell through. The Hackney brothers disbanded Death in 1977. Bobby and Dannis went on to form reggae group, Lambsbread, while David fell steadily into alcoholism. A lifetime habit of smoking cigarettes resulted in his eventual death in 2000 from lung cancer.
Around 2007, a Detroit deejay received a 45 of Death’s single, “Politicians In My Eyes“. He was a collector of obscure records. The friend that sent him said single also happened to be friends with the Hackney brothers back when they were still self distributing their music back in the 70’s and he had received a copy of the single from them. The deejay friend started playing the album on his radio show and that’s what eventually led to the whole ball rolling, almost 40 years after Death recorded their music.
The single became a huge underground hit. One of the people it happened to reach was Bobby Hackney, Jr., who immediately recognized his father’s voice on the track. Those lost 7 tracks eventually saw the light of day in 2009 when For the Whole World to See was finally released by Drag City Records. In 2012, Mark Christopher Covino and Jeff Howlett directed A Band Called Death and helped Death’s message of cool even further. That’s Death’s story in a nutshell. There’s more to it, but hopefully I’ve enticed you all enough to discover Death for yourselves. Enjoy the journey of Death!
Pick up Death’s For the Whole World to See here. If you’re a fan of Punk, then I urge you to discover one of the founding fathers of the movement.
For more on Death’s story, please feel free to pick up their documentary, A Band Called Death . Thank me later.