A Band Called Death, 3 Black Cats and the non-existent Punk

By Stefano Nappa
3 min read

A Band Called Death is a very special band that cannot be missing in our Monday Song section.
Americans have tons of coffee. They swallow it like fresh water but obviously the taste of the American coffee is completely different from the Italian espresso. Everyman Espresso, however, is a café in New York where you can ask for the coffee that can be tasted only in Naples. However, you can lose yourself in the colorful tile mosaic that sets it apart from other cafes. Here, if you ask for the New York Times no one will answer you but if you call it The Gray Lady they will give it to you for an unlimited time.

This band was punk before punk was punk.

This title caught all my attention that day.
Three black guys with Death on their t-shirts gave birth to a musical movement. Even before John Lydon of the Sex Pistols created anarchy in the UK and before Dave Marsh of Creem invented the term “punk”.

They grew up in Detroit in The Great Lakes State. Among these 14 miles the music has always sounded completely different from the rest of the world.

However, the crisis has still brought the metropolis down. In the suburbs you’ll only find abandoned houses and shops closed with wooden planks and gun holes. Let’s say the city is gone forever but… if two cats can challenge a lion, according to an old Yiddish proverb, three cats who grew up in this part of the world can do wonders.


The first time you see your person, you never forget him/her. In fact, in 1964 the Hackney brothers fell madly in love with music thanks to The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show.

The first heart-pounding smile and gaze at the sensual lines of the music came when Bobby found a guitar dumped in a dark alley.

It all began like this, when they were: twelve, ten and eight years old. At the time in the 70s, soul, disco and jazz were the only genres that the clubs played. In fact, the sound of A Band Called Death was different and you could only hear it in the garages in the area.

The first demo was called Rock Fire Funk Express but something went wrong even though their notes reached Jim Vitti. A visionary man who oversaw the music of the Dells, Funkadelic and even Jay-z’s.
He took them to the studio, but after a few months everything stopped due to mourning. The father of the two Hockney brothers died and they decided to change their name to just Death.

No commercial future, plus you’re black and don’t even have Motown soul.

These were the words that sealed the band’s dream drawer. They only released seven songs and 500 self-produced copies.

After 30 years, collector Robert Cole Manis threw Keep On Knocking in a bootleg and ignited the web.
Freakin ‘Out even ended up in an episode of How I Met Your Mother. If Jack White hadn’t listened to Politicians in My Eyes he probably would never have composed Lazaretto.

Just like the beginning of a Walt Disney film: before the Bad Brains, the Sex Pistols or the Ramones… Once upon a time, there was a A Band Called Death.

3 min read


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