Have you heard Death? Let me phrase that another way have you heard of three black teenagers from Detroit who were playing punk rock “two years before The Ramones?” David, Dannis and Bobby Hackney formed a band in the early 1970’s that would eventually land on the name Death. They played fast, loud and with undeniable heart.
After David saw The Who play in Detroit he knew how his band should sound. Friends and neighbors called it “white boy” music but David had been inspired and could not be discouraged when it came to his artistic vision. The same steadfast attitude applied to the bands’ name. As you might imagine the name Death was a huge turnoff to record executives, producers, and pretty much everyone else. While by today’s standards the name Death probably wouldn’t cause anyone to bat an eye, by 1970’s standards it was dangerous. The name and music were ahead of their time. When you look back it might give you some solace to know that you were ahead of the curve but when you are actually living in that moment it must be difficult to stay true to your vision.If you were in a band and you were offered a record contract and all you had to do was change your name, would you? Would you sign away your name? I’ll go ahead and assume most people would. David Hackney was not most people.
A Band called Death is inspiring, funny, tragic, frustrating and most of all human. It’s a story that takes place in the world of music that’s really about family. This is the kind of movie that compels me to call one of my brothers at 330am.
David Hackney embodied the punk rock ethos and sound years before it broke into the mainstream. He was a visionary who has been vindicated 35 years after the world told him he was crazy. This is essentially an underdog story that needed to be told. This film makes a nice companion piece to 20 feet from stardom. If you have any interest in punk rock or music history I cannot recommend this film highly enough.
A Band Called Death is currently streaming on Netflix, Amazon and and embeded below thanks to Hulu