Last night I traveled to the wilds of western Michigan to visit friends and to see a screening of the recently released documentary ‘A Band Called Death.’ I also changed the life of a strapping young stoner by exposing him to the wonders of Hawkwind, but that is a story for another time.
‘A Band Called Death,’ directed by Mark Covino and Jeff Howlett, is the real life story of the Hackney brothers, who as teenagers growing up in Detroit in the 1970s formed the world’s first all-black punk band (back before “punk,” as we know it, was a thing). Brother David was the ringleader and spiritual force behind the band, choosing the name Death to make sense of his father’s recent passing and to embrace most people’s worst fear into a normal part of life. While the concept behind the band was rather cerebral, the music itself was grounded by teenage rebellion, influences like the Who and Alice Cooper, and the industrial chug of the Motor City. The band cut a record, and was finally offered a single record deal-from Clive Davis at Arista Records, which they turned down when the label asked that they change their name. The brothers eventually moved on to new business and families, but David Hackney remained convinced that some day the world would come looking for their music until he passed away from cancer in 2000.
Through a series of events (which are covered in the movie), David’s prophecy became reality, making the story of Death not only one of the best rock ‘n’ roll tales of all time, but also a heartfelt, relatable saga about the underdog that finally found recognition and celebration of its art.
If you need more convincing of why to see the ‘A Band Called Death,’ here are five more reasons and lessons from the movie:
1. An example of the power of loyalty and sticking by the people that care about you- whether it’s your brother or not.
2. Keeping your convictions and self-confidence even in the face of rejection.
3. Good things can come to those who wait.
4. Breaking rules and shattering expectations is awesome.
5. Listen to more rock ‘n’ roll.