Detroit's Forgotten Protopunks Death Are Back From the Grave

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Courtesy Photo
Death is scheduled to perform on Saturday, April 5, at the Pressroom.

The world never cared about Death. Until now. In the early 1970s, before even the long-revered "godfathers and godmothers of punk" were trailblazing the genre, the Detroit trio was doing it first (and quite well, for that matter).

But nobody outside of sibling band members David, Dannis, and Bobby Hackney, their family, a few neighbors, a couple of recording engineers, and one skeptical record company executive even knew the band existed. For a long time.

Ponder that for a moment.

Here is a band that made an incredible seven-song EP that went virtually unheard for decades. It's disheartening, really, to think of how close Death came to a deal.

When the Hackney brothers refused to change their band name, Columbia Records president Clive Davis, one of the most powerful figures in music in the early 1970s, declined to sign the Motor City proto-punks.

One of the more astute businessmen in music, Davis probably was not wrong to consider "Death" a hurdle to going gold, but there remains the inevitable "What if?"

Realistically, the question begs to be asked: Was the world ready for three black brothers from Detroit playing aggressive, Who-inspired riffs at speeds that were relatively unknown in the mainstream? There's no way of knowing whether, or how, Death might have changed the course of punk rock, but it's fun to ponder what might have been.

Wouldn't it have been great, for example, if Death could have been tourmates on the Sex Pistols' ill-fated American tour in 1978? Even a moderate amount of success and notoriety for Death could have changed a lot within the musical and cultural landscape of our country.

Location Info


The Pressroom

441 W. Madison St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: General

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