Black Punks


A Band Called Death, a film by Drafthouse Films, debuted Friday in select cities and is also available via digital download and on iTunes.

Punk before punk existed, three teenage brothers in the early ’70s formed a band in their spare bedroom, began playing a few local gigs and even pressed a single in the hopes of getting signed. But this was the era of Motown and emerging disco. Record companies found Death’s music— and band name—too intimidating, and the group were never given a fair shot, disbanding before they even completed one album. Equal parts electrifying rockumentary and epic family love story, A Band Called Death chronicles the incredible fairy-tale journey of what happened almost three decades later, when a dusty 1974 demo tape made its way out of the attic and found an audience several generations younger. Playing music impossibly ahead of its time, Death is now being credited as the first black punk band (hell…the first punk band!), and are finally receiving their long overdue recognition as true rock pioneers. More at Drafthouse Films…

Also, Death members, Bobby and Dannis Hackney, spoke to Huffington Post about race, punk, 70s-era Detroit and their move from the Motor City to Vermont.

(H/T Shadow and Act)

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  • Michelle Kirkwood

    Here’s some info on Pure Hell, one of the earliest black punk rock bands:

  • Michelle Kirkwood

    Yeah, the Ann-Arbor/Detroit-based Stooges are pretty much considered the first real punk rock band,period—-as well as the MC5—I like both of them, since they both pretty much came from around where I grew up.

    • Fifty Shades Of Erin Gray

      There must have been something in the air in 1974, because it really was punk Year Zero.

  • Michelle Kirkwood

    Interestingly enough, Death just played here in Detroit at the Orion Metal Festival on Belle Isle 2 weeks ago! I wanted to see them but found out too late that the whole festival was a package deal, so I had to pass on that. I’ve known about them since their unreleased album was released a couple of years ago. I like that song “Politicians in My Eyes,” not only because it’s a good song, but because if you listen to the lyrics,the topics they address in the song are still pretty relevant today. There was also a psychedelic black rock group from the D called Black Merda that received a renaissance of sorts back in 2006 when their two albums were released.

    One band that could probably lay claim to being one of the first black punk groups are these brothers who called themselves Pure Hell—they even went to England and played during the punk era—here’s a doc on them that came out a couple of years back:

  • Fifty Shades Of Erin Gray

    It sounds good, but… They weren’t the first punk band. The term was first used in the late 60s to refer to garage bands and hard rock groups like the MC5 and The Stooges. The Ramones, Television and Patti Smith were all doing gigs by early 1974.

    They definitely sound punk, but they weren’t the first.

  • Doren

    I will go see this but the Ramones were doing punk before 1974 so I am not sure we can call them the first Punk bank. Some more research is needed on this. Glad this was uncovered.

    • Fifty Shades Of Erin Gray

      They all seem to have been inspired by the MC5, which in the case of Death makes sense as they were from Detroit.