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‘A Band Called Death’ is screening at the Brattle Theatre this weekend


Forty years ago a band broke out of Motown-era Detroit, a proto-punk trio consisting of brothers Bobby, Dennis, and David Hackney. Shortly after they began, Detroit broke the band. They were called Death, they were way ahead of their time, and they are the stuff of legend.

Their story — and how some discovered old demos re-sparked their legacy decades later — is told in A Band Called Death, an acclaimed 2012 documentary that screens this weekend at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, with multiple showings Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. As far as my knowledge goes, this is the Boston-area premiere of the doc (Update: it was shown at the Boston Underground Film Festival), and Friday’s 7pm and 9:30pm screenings will also feature an appearance by co-director Mark Covino.

Tickets are $9.75 (there are discounts for seniors, students, and Brattle members). Check the trailer above, and the description from the Brattle below. Those Saturday and Sunday early shows look too good to pass up.


(2012) dir Mark Covino, Jeff Howlett w/Death (Bobby, Dannis, & David Hackney), Alice Cooper, Henry Rollins [96 min; Digital]

Before Bad Brains, the Sex Pistols or even the Ramones, there was a band called Death. Three teenage African-American brothers in 1971 Detroit 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 during the reign of Motown, and these guys were punk before punk even existed. Record companies found Death’s music – and band name – too intimidating, and the group were never given a fair shot, disbanding before they even released 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… maybe even the first punk band!), and is finally receiving long overdue recognition as true rock pioneers.