Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Life and Times of a Band Called: Death

     I grew up with music constantly filling my eardrums. Harmonizing in the car with my mother and the Carpenters, crowdsurfing at the South Hollywood House of Blues, and spontaneously jamming with my talented peers are some of my fondest memories. I am very passionate about music and I honestly believe it's in my genes to love music. My other passion is movies, and when I saw a documentary on NetFlix about a protopunk band called Death how could I not watch it? Protopunk literally means "a prototype of what would become the punk genre" these artists range all over the rock spectrum and are considered the instigators of punk. When I think of the pioneers of the punk genre I think of the Ramones, Sex Pistols, and the Clash. But before them Death set the precedent for what was to become punk.

     Death started with three brothers: Bobby Hackney, Dannis Hackney, and David Hackney. With the support of their family the Hackney brothers began to learn and develop their skills as a band. Death was spearheaded by the stubborn and determined David Hackney on guitar. David Hackney and Bobby Hackney co-wrote Death's first full length album ...For the Whole World to See. Bobby Hackney played bass and was the lead singer of the band and Dannis Hackney played drums. It was David Hackney who changed the name from Rock Fire Funk Express to Death in order to put a more positive spin on such a dark idea after being deeply affected by the death of his father. The three brothers continued to practice and refine their sound as a band and eventually landed some studio time in Detroit's United Sound Studios backed by Columbia Records. However, after David refused to change the name of the band, only seven of the twelve songs originally planned were recorded. Death ended up releasing two singles from the studio time on their own independent label known as Tryangle. They made five hundred vinyl presses and handed them out to friends and colleagues to no avail and in 1977 the Hackney brothers decided that it was time to end Death.  Dannis and Bobby Hackney went on to play in a reggae band for a time.  Sadly, in 2000 David Hackney passed away due to lung cancer.  
Although it was a brief history Death resurfaced after punk enthusiasts began to cycle the vinyls around and post digital copies of the songs on the internet decades later. The uniqueness and ingenuity was only realized after many years had passed but that doesn't change the fact, at least for this listener, that Death made creative efforts that were just a few years ahead of its time. For a time when Motown and Disco were on the rise these three brothers created music that would only later become known as punk. For the time, the means in which these musicians blended their talents were unheard of and revolutionary. Blast beats, distorted guitars, and shouted vocals had all been done before but it was the execution and synthesis of these techniques which made Death's sound special.  Today two of the three brothers, along with a member of a group formed after Death, have joined to continue writing and creating punk music under the name Death.  The bands self-determination and refusal to change their name to a more marketable one provided more support for their own unique work.  As Collins & Amabile state, in Motivation and creativity, "creativity must occur in a context of self-evaluation rather than being driven by a concern with being evaluated by others." 

Below is the entire ...For the Whole World to See album by Death and the trailer for the A Band Called: Death documentary by Mark Christopher Covino and Jeff Howlett.

Album Stream


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