The band recorded some of the best punk music the world has ever heard, but being black guys from Detroit playing rock and calling themselves Death they were a tough sell. Nearly all the record labels they were presented to loved the music but they all needed the name changed, which David refused to do. The brothers all continued in music, but after all the rejection decided to move on, from Detroit to Vermont and from Death to a gospel rock group. While Bobby and Dannis stayed in Vermont and continued as a Reggae band and started families, David moved back to Detroit to continue trying to make it in rock music. In 2000, David’s heavy drinking and smoking caught up to him and he died shortly after of lung cancer. Throughout his life, but particularly towards the end, he was adamant that Death would eventually be recognized for its work, but he would be gone by then. His prediction was right; around 2008 their single was discovered by some record collectors and circulated through the underground scene. It was eventually picked up by a record label, who got the master tapes of their original studio sessions from Bobby and released the record “…For the Whole World to See”—the name David had come up with over 30 years ago.
One point that the directors, Mark Christopher Covino and Jeff Howlett, deserve credit for is getting good interviews out of the key people in the story. The interviews throughout with Bobby and Dannis are very good, but when they talk about David’s genius and his love for music they are particularly beautiful. They are able to express so much emotion when it comes to talking about their brother, and it creates a presence through the whole film that the other brothers constantly talk about feeling whenever they play Death. “What does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul” is quoted from the bible by Dannis near the end of the film. That describes perfectly David’s influence on the band and his brothers. He was always the one who had a spirituality and mythology for the band and the name. He felt so strongly that the band needed to be called Death that he gave up success to keep that. This is truly one of the most moving documentaries I have ever seen because of the love that the Hackney brothers are able to express through words and music for their brother and the band. While it may not be beautifully presented, the story and the emotions are amazing and make this very much worth watching.
Length: 96 minutes
PS: The most important take away from this film is the music. It’s incredible! I don’t know enough to do it justice, but if you like punk you will love this. It’s the Ramones before the Ramones existed. I’ll leave you by saying that I bought “…For the Whole World to See” on Saturday after watching the film and I have listened to it twice a day since then.