Detroit’s Hackney brothers weren’t that much ahead of their time in 1974, when they started playing speedy hard rock. But they were probably the first African American musicians to adopt the style that became known as “punk.” And they suffered commercially for choosing a name that was then unfashionably severe: Death.
Mark Covino and Jeff Howlett’s “A Band Called Death” is illuminating, and sometimes moving, when it recounts the group’s stillborn career. The trio recorded an album in 1975 but was able to release only a limited-edition single. Death split in 1978, and drummer Dannis and singer-bassist Bobby started a reggae band in Vermont. Guitarist David, the least compromising of the three, wasn’t into that. He returned to Detroit, where he died of lung cancer in 2000.