Better Late Than Never – Death


January 22, 2014 by Jutta


I only heard about this band last year through my oldest brother. He was like, “you need to check out this band, they’re all black but they’re like f***n punk man!”. I’ll say he got that right – more of the protopunk affiliation though (as I later found out).

So, I ordered the film soon after. This film looks at artistic integrity, musical innovation, and the power of family ties. It also does an excellent job of putting cross the reasons why Death didin’t have success in the beginning; yet it also shows the thrill of discovering the band. A lot of archival footage and enthused, lit up faces (some of whom you’ll know) being interviewed. You had all types in this film  –  punk, geek, musician, studio execs, and even Bobby Hackney’s children recount their discovery of Death. The admiration of such a cool revelation was evident.

Death were a protopunk band which formed in 1971 in Detroit. It comprised of brothers Bobby (bass, vocals), David (guitar), and Dannis (drums) Hackney. They started out as an R&B band but later got influenced by bands, such as ‘The Who’ and Alice Cooper.

No doubt this band was under appreciated up until very recently. Upon listening to all their tracks, aside from the general punk sound, I noticed an element of  ‘Sly and the Family Stone’ backbeat. The chords are much more tighter, circular and melodic compared to say The Ramones in the late 70s where their style was a shorter and more detached three chord progression associated with later punk music.

I liken Death to Mc5, Stooges and even the later hardcore punk band Black Flag, because like Death they freestyle quite a bit, and they also have that proggy/pyschedelic, melodic sound. Don’t let the blaxploitation/soulful afro’s put you off though, Death also have the charging tempo, the energy and the whole “swagger” associated with punk/anarcho punk.

It seems that Death were the only black band who were willing to be influenced by the earlier garage rock of the mid to late 60s such as ‘The Who’ as aforementioned.
So glad I came across this band, even though it’s decades later – but I guess it’s better late than never…

Death Lives!


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