Punk Before Punk Was Punk

Punk Before Punk Was Punk

In the early 1970’s three African American brothers living in Detroit, Michigan decided to do something that was pretty rare in the black community at the time. They went to a local music store, bought some instruments, and started a rock band. The guitar player, and leader of the band David Hackney came up with a name, which at the time was considered highly controversial. After some thought, David, Bobby, and Dennis all agreed on the name, and from then on the band became known as “Death.” Between the early seventies and early 80’s the brothers made loud, high energy rock music and made multiple recordings. The term didn’t exist at the time, but what this band made can only be described as Punk Rock. Needless to say, they were ahead of their time.

They managed to come in contact with a record label, recorded an album, and seemed to be almost destined for success until they hit a roadblock. Nobody was willing to promote, or release material for a band called Death. David had ascribed a lot of spiritual meaning to the name, and it meant a lot to him, so he was unwilling to change it. After numerous rejections, and relocating to New England, they couldn’t seem to find any luck. After a while, Death pretty much dissolved. Only a small amount of their material was released, and Death seemed pretty much dead, until thirty years later.

Before we skip ahead three decades, there’s a few interesting, almost eerie details. Upon departing from the record label, the brothers made a deal to have their masters returned to them. Over time, David Hackney developed some problems. He was considered an incredibly intelligent, creative, spiritual, and all around great person, but his troubles with alcoholism and chain smoking inevitably lead to some health issues. At one point, it became clear he seemed to know he didn’t have much time left, basically telling his brothers he wasn’t going to be around much longer. He gave his brother Dennis the masters telling him to hold on to them. The story goes that he told Dennis to keep them because the world will come looking for them someday. David passed away not long after.

Although his request may have seemed crazy at the time, thirty years later the few Death albums in existence managed to circulate, finding a way into the hands of some people who felt a need to get their music out. So after thirty years, and having almost forgotten about the band, they were catching on. Everybody who heard the music was blown away, three brothers from Detroit, playing Punk rock before it existed, blew a lot of people’s minds.

After all that time, the brothers were getting contacted by all sorts of people, and in 2009, after more than three decades, Death’s album “…For The Whole World To See” was released on a wide scale. The music spread all over, and fast. Recruiting a new member, Death began playing shows for the first time since the 70’s, and even started recording new material.

There are a lot of inspiring, and downright miraculous stories in music, but the story of Death tops them all. David Hackney told his brothers the world would come looking for that music, and decades later, he was right.

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