“Ahead of punk, and ahead of their time.” Jack White’s reaction to his first encounter with Death indicates the cutting-edge sound of the newly-rediscovered power trio.
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In February, Chicago’s Drag City gave Death a second shot at life, rescuing seven tracks they’d recorded for Columbia (which were never released because Clive Davis didn’t like their name) and releasing them as ….For The Whole World To See.
Death was comprised of three brothers, David, Dannis and Bobby, who developed their raw sound in the early 1970s, playing local venues in their hometown of Detroit. In the context of 20th century musical evolution, the Hackney boys serve as a bridge between the late 1960s hard rock of groups like the Stooges and legendary punk pioneers of the late ’70s, such as the Ramones. As teens the trio experimented with the gospel and R&B genres, but were inspired by a 1973 Alice Cooper concert to dedicate themselves completely to hard rock. David and company were lucky to have an understanding and supportive mother – on the condition that they would practice three hours a day, she allowed them to turn their bedroom into a rehearsal space, amps and all. But timing is everything, and Death’s early arrival was the nail in their coffin. Bassist Bobby tells the New York Times, “We were ridiculed because at the time everybody in our community was listening to the Philadelphia sound, Earth, Wind & Fire, the Isley Brothers.” They were a black band trying to make it in a white-washed world, proclaiming a dark gospel that their disco-dancing contemporaries weren’t ready to hear. After a short stint with Groovesville Productions and forming their own label, Tryangle, to release a few hundred copies of “Politicians in My Eyes,” the Hackneys moved on with their lives for the next thirty years, during which time big brother David passed away. Credit for the recent revival must be given to Bobby’s son, who convinced his father to bring the masters out of storage after hearing the Death single at a party. The two surviving Hackney brothers then teamed with Drag City to reissue their music.