What’s in a name? For some people it’s everything.
To David Hackney, it was just that. After his Baptist preacher father died in a tragic accident trying to save a mans life, David renamed the band he had with his two younger brothers Bobby and Dannis Rock Fire Funk Express to Death. “Because death is real,” David explained with his ever forming positive look on spirituality.
With the loss of their father and the combined musical influences of The Who and Alice Cooper, the teenaged Hackney brothers became a punk rock band in 1974 before there was punk rock. All the more fascinating is the fact that the Hackney’s are black and started this in their hometown of Detroit, Michigan (doesn’t Detroit have enough music Gods?!). The brothers’ every day jam sessions didn’t go over well with the predominantly all black community, who didn’t relate well to the “white boy music”.
When Death tried to release their LP in 1975, their talent opened doors, but it was their band’s ominous name that had music-industry bigwigs closing them down. David, the musical and spiritual leader of the band, wouldn’t waiver on the name, and while Dannis and Bobby would have, the lesson of backing up your brother that was drilled into them by their father always held strong.
As the unheard record collected dust in an attic, David predicted that people would come looking for their music after his death. Prophetically, David sadly died from lung cancer in 2000, but in 2009 after ardent music collectors got wind of and spread the music gospel of Death, their much delayed album was released and became a rock sensation.
There is an exuberant joy that oozes from this rock doc. Directors Mark Christopher Covino and Jeff Howlett wonderfully piece together a puzzle of musical buried treasure but more importantly of brotherly love. Mostly heard from the p.o.v. of the two surviving Death members Bobby and Dannis, there is a sincere and authentic family bond propelled by their powerful faith that jumps out on screen almost giving you a hug (and I like hugs).
At times the band feels a little too praised in the hall of rock with their one album, but the brothers are just so happy to continue what their brother David helped start it’s hard to fixate on that.
I would have liked to hear more of Death’s music laced throughout the film since that’s the celebrated topic on display, and even at only 96 minutes the film does meander towards the end.
The joy of A Band Called Death is unmistakable and should be praised much like the band’s music.
Take a Drink: for every celebrity cameo.
Take a Drink: for every time they do that slow-mo thing with photographs.
Down a Shot: when David does a phone prank.