The documentation of rock and roll’s Black roots should come as no surprise to anyone with an Internet connection and a thirst for musical knowledge, but many are unaware of the band Death and the role that they played in shaping the sound of 1970s proto-punk music. Brothers Bobby (bass, vocals), David (guitar), and Dannis (drums) Hackney started off as an R&B trio, but switched their sound in 1973, after finding inspiration in the heavier sounds of the Stooges and Alice Cooper. Their sound typified the raw garage rock sound of Detroit, with breakneck rhythmic changes, crunchy power chords, feedback, and a ‘middle-finger’ attitude that predated the likes of the Sex Pistols and the Ramones.
The trio recorded just seven songs during recorded sessions funded by Columbia Records president Clive Davis; however, the band balked at Davis’s suggestion that they change their name to a more commercially-friendly moniker, sessions were halted, and Death broke up.
While the full-length album was indefinitely shelved, a super-limited 7” single was issued and the band became the stuff of legends to record collectors and punk/garage rock luminaries who drew inspiration from the Hackney brothers’ music. While the band members went on to pursue other musical ventures (most notably as the gospel rock outfit The 4th Movement in the early 1980s), David succumbed to lung cancer in 2000.
Death’s sole album …For the Whole World to See was finally released in 2009 – a whopping 35 years after its creation – on Drag City Records, sparking a new wave of awareness and recognition for the already criminally overlooked group. That same year, it was announced that Mos Def and Dame Dash were producing a documentary on Death that will no doubt expose an even greater audience to the music of the Hackney brothers.