When one mentions the genre of punk rock, the bands that immediately come to mind are The Clash, Ramones or maybe The Sex Pistols. These are the bands that are credited with creating punk rock and putting it on the map. Clubs like New York’s CBGB and accents straight out of working class London are what have been the staples.
But what if I told you that the heartbeat of the punk movement was one beat away from coming out of Detroit during the peak of the 70’s Motown movement by three brothers who were, of all things, rock and roll loving black men. The Hackney brothers, Dannis, David and Bobby, were average children being raised in the motor city at the height of it’s automotive power. Raised in a musical family that strongly encouraged musical enlightenment and for their children to listen to everything and to search for what moves them. The boys were all given instruments and soon and naturally formed a band. Unsure what they wanted to play they would just jam and play anything that flowed until one night their direction came into town when older brother David saw a british group called The Who live in concert. He immediately knew that rock and roll was they way.
The brothers would soon experience tragedy when their father was tragically killed by a drunk driver while driving an injured co-worker to the hospital. This event would forever be with brother and the groups patriarch, David. He would soon after give the band the name that would define them, restrain them and even resurrect them. The band would forever be called, Death.
Such an in your face and very real name would not stop the brothers from making some of the best punk music and best sang and arranged punk rock ever recorded. The name would however keep the band from ever hitting any form of success. After label rejections based on the name and an unwillingness on David’s part to change the name, they would press a very limited amount of their own records. This would not help radio play or popularity.
After years of struggling Dannis and Bobby seperated from David in the hopes he would one day return and compromise. The day never came. David sank into a dark world slowly and deeper as the years went on and Dannis and Bobby would soon morph into a reggae band and enjoy very limited success.
Shortly before his death, David bestowed the master recordings upon his brother Bobby, telling him that after he (David) was gone, the world would come looking for them. David later died of lung cancer and in Bobby’s attic the tapes went. A few years later Bobby’s oldest son would come across a recording of his father singing on a Death song without ever having known about the group. Before long they all discovered what a underground cult hit the band was becoming.
Bobby and his brothers felt obligated to honor their father and uncle’s music and formed a covered band named Rough Francis after their late uncle David’s pen name. Now experiencing a slow but growing resurgence the brothers released their first Death album 35 years after they recorded it.
The documentary shows what heart and love the brothers had for each other and the love of music they had. It is a genuine story of greatness and talent and genius that almost went unappreciated and never heard again. But it also goes to show that true art and talent can’t be kept secret. It is one of the most moving stories you will ever know. To see the hard working brothers first love come to fruition is not only wonderful yet sad that the leader is not there to enjoy it. None the less the blue collar Hackney brothers are finally getting their just due.