“What profit a man if he shall gain the whole world but lose his soul?”In the film A Band Called Death, Dannis Hackney tells us that the actions of his brother, David, embodied the meaning of this quote. The documentary tells the story of Death, a proto-punk band formed in Detroit in 1971. The band was comprised of three brothers, David, Dannis, and Bobby, and more than anything, the film is a story about their family, a testament to their warmth and loyalty. It’s a portrait of David, the brother who died in 2000 of lung cancer, and a moving celebration of the way that he lives on in the love of his brothers and in the music that they made together. One of the brothers says the whole story is “…strange. It’s just…strange.” And it is, but in the beautiful way that some stories are so strange they make perfect sense. David is portrayed as something of an eccentric genius, a spiritual philosopher. On the day of his father’s funeral, he took this picture of the clouds:
He saw a triangle in the sky, and this took on the significance of the three elements of life, mental, spiritual, and physical. On the side he saw another shape, the shape of somebody looking after them, their father, maybe, or their heavenly father. This pattern became the band’s logo:
And Death became unequivocally the name of the band. Throughout their short career, this name created nothing but trouble. Nobody wanted to hear music by a band called “Death,” and they were offered a contract if they changed the name. But they refused, because that would have been like losing their soul, and in this context the word “death” is so much more about soul than anything else. It feels oddly perfect that we watched the film now, during the season of all souls, the season that the spirits of the dead can communicate more easily with the living. The Hackney brothers talk about their mother and father, who gave them a love for music, who taught them to always back up their brothers, who encouraged them to play even at their noisiest. We mourn with them when their mother dies, but we’re glad to see them so full of love and hope. When Death is finally discovered after 35 years, and achieves a bewildering popularity, we feel the confusion of Bobby and Dannis, happy that David’s prediction has come true, happy to share the music that he loved, but sorry that he missed this time. They re-form as a band with a new guitarist, three men on stage, and the photograph of David hanging alongside, watching over them. I think for any art to be great it has to have sincerity and soul, and the band Death, and these brothers, Dannis and Bobby, in their cheerfulness, and affection, and lack of pretension, in the energy and the warmth of their music and their lives, have a humbling amount of each. It’s strange, it’s just beautifully strange.
Bread! I love baking bread, particularly when it starts to get colder, as it is rapidly doing these days. I love that it takes all day, that it feels impossible, and, of course I love eating the bread! This bread has eggs, butter and milk, all of which make it tender and flaky. It also has a nice strong crust, and it has some herbs. I used sage, rosemary and thyme, because that’s what I’ve been getting from the farm, but you could use any that you have and like. Or leave out the herbs altogether, which would make this a great loaf for sweet things, like butter and jam, or cinnamon sugar, or french toast.
Here’s the albumDeath For All the World to See.
2 t yeast
1 t sugar
1/2 cup warm water
4 T butter
1/2 cup warm milk
5 cups (+/-) flour
2 T sugar
1 t salt
small handful of herbs, fresh or dried, any that you like. I used thyme, sage, and rosemary, because that’s what we’ve been getting from the farm
olive oil for the bowl
Combine the yeast, sugar, and warm water in a large bowl. Leave in a warm place 15 minutes to half an hour to get frothy.
In a small saucepan heat the milk with the butter until the milk is just warm and the butter just melted. Add this to the flour and stir it in as well as possible, then add the eggs.
Add the flour, herbs, sugar and salt. When you can no longer stir, get your hands in there and pull everything together. You should have a soft workable dough. Add a bit of water or flour, if necessary, to get the right consistency. Knead for about seven minutes.
Lightly oil a large bowl, and drop the dough in, rolling it around to coat each side. Cover with a damp towel and leave in a warm place to double in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Punch/fold down, and leave for about another 45 minutes. Punch/fold down again and break into two pieces. If you’re going to use a loaf pan, lightly oil it. Spread the dough out on the counter to be about 1/2 inch thick, and then gently roll it up and tuck in the edges. Place this in your loaf pan. Or you can just put it on a baking sheet, if you’re not too worried about the shape.
Leave to set for at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 450. Place your loaves in the oven and bake until golden and crusty and hollow-sounding when tapped, about 20 to 25 minutes.