Death - Biography

Death is a punk band from Detroit, Michigan who music enthusiasts and critics alike credit as pioneers in punk rock. Formed in 1971 by the Hackney brothers, Bobby (bass, vocals), David (guitar), and Dannis (drums), Death was nearly forgotten for thirty years, until a demo tape made its way out of the attic and into the ears of an audience several generations younger.


Growing up in Detroit in the thriving days of Motown, the Hackney brothers naturally gravitated to playing R&B, but after seeing Alice Cooper perform live, David became infatuated with Rock & Roll music. Originally calling themselves Rock Fire Funk Express, guitarist David convinced his brothers to change the name of their band to Death. Opting for their own brand of Rock music, the group practiced and recorded demos at home, performing gigs from their garage. In 1974, Colombia Record's president Clive Davis showed interest in signing the band and helped Death record seven original songs. However, when Davis insisted the band change their name for broader appeal, the group refused and was never signed to a deal. Death used the single, "Politicians In My Eyes" b/w "Keep On Knocking,"  from the Clive Davis funded sessions and self-released a limited pressing of 500 copies on their label Tryangle.


In 1977, Death disbanded and the brothers relocated to Burlington, Vermont. They formed the Gospel band The 4th Movement and released two full length albums in the '80s. David became increasingly homesick and moved back to Detroit in 1982, continuing to make music until his death from lung cancer in 2000.  Back in Vermont, Bobby and Dannis formed the reggae band Lambsbread, which became a vital part of Vermont’s late 1980s jam-band boom. Lambsbread has released 8 albums and remains active on the New England college circuit. 


While at a party in San Francisco in 2008, Bobby's son Julian first heard Death's "Tryangle" single. He quickly recognized his father’s voice and took to Google to uncover the Holy Grail status of the band's self-released single. Unbeknownst to Bobby Sr. and his brother Dannis, Death's limited single pressing was an underground classic sought out by collectors of rare records. Later that year, Bobby's sons - Julian, Urian, and Bobby Jr - discovered the old recordings in their parents attic and started a band called Rough Francis to cover Death's songs.


In 2009, Drag City Records released a 7-song LP entitled ...For The Whole World To See. Soon after, a reformed Death took to the stage with Lambsbread guitarist Bobbie Duncan taking the place of the late David Hackney. Drag Ctiy released Spiritual Mental Physical (2011), a collection of original reel-to-reel demos recorded between 1974-1976. Then in 2012, the documentary A Band Called Death was released, telling the band's story and chronicling their newfound success, 35 years later. Death performed at Amoeba Hollywood on June 27, 2013. Watch Death's in-store performance here.

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