Ya can’t beat Death–especially when it’s a blazin’ hot rock ‘n’ roll band that’s finally gettin’ its due, 35 years after they broke up.
Death was started by brothers Bobby, David, and Dannis Hackney in Detroit in the early 70s. Their brand of rock was just as hard-charging as Detroit contemporaries like The Stooges, and the MC5–and like those Motor City madmen, they helped set a sonic palette for what would become punk rock. The three brothers began their musical lives as an R&B outfit called the Rockfire Funk Express, but after an Alice Cooper show, David convinced his siblings to change direction–and their name. The name Death, and the fact that the brothers were African-American, set them apart from their fellow hard rockers. In 1975, the group entered the studio to record some demos, but record company anxiety–they thought the name Death wasn’t exactly marketable–prevented most of the tunes from seeing the light of day, for a while at least.
Death disbanded in 1977, but the Hackney brothers continued to make music, from gospel to reggae. For the most part, their chapter as Death was forgotten. Then in 2008 Bobby’s son was at a party, and heard a song whose singer sounded pretty darn familiar. It just happened to be his dad’s old band Death. Bobby got the old tapes together, and in 2009, Drag City re-released the tunes Death recorded back in ’75 under the name …For the Whole World to See. The record also got Death back together as a live act (sadly, without David, who passed away in 2000). The band’s also the subject of a just-released documentary titled A Band Called Death. Death stopped by KUTX ahead of the doc’s release, and played a few songs for a live Studio 1A audience including today’s hard-chargin’ song of the day, “Keep On Knockin’.”