A Movie A Day #345: A Band Called Death (2012, directed by Mark Christopher Covino and Jeff Howlett)

A band called Death was one of the best bands that most people have never heard of.  Formed in the early 70s by three brothers in Detroit, Death produced some of the most incendiary music ever recorded.  They played fast and they played loud.  They were punk before punk even existed.  At a time when most black musicians were defined by the smooth Motown style, Death created their own unique sound.  Led by a visionary named David Hackney, Death were trailblazers and, as so often happens with trailblazers, they would not receive the recognition that they deserved until several years after Death performed for the last time.

A Band Called Death tells not only their story but also the story of how this band was eventually rediscovered.  Through extensive and insightful interviews with the surviving members of Death, A Band Called Death works as not just a history of the band but also as a tribute to three brothers who always had each other’s back.  Though he passed away in 2000 and never received his due while alive, the film is dominated by David Hackney.  It was David’s idea to name the band Death, not for shock value but instead to express his own deeply spiritual outlook.  To an extent, it was David’s refusal to compromise on the name that kept Death from receiving the attention that it deserved.  (He even turned down a record deal with Clive Davis when Davis requested a name change.)  Today, of course, no one would be shocked by a band with a name like “Death.”  Instead, they would just be shocked by the band’s ferocious power of the band’s music and lyrics.

A Band Called Death is a powerful and touching documentary about the power of music and family.

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