When you think Punk music, a sub-genre of rock, you think of angry white males singing against the establishment and pushing for self discovery. You think Green Day, Rise Against and bands like that.
What you might not know is that there were quite a number of black bands that were doing exactly the same thing, but have perhaps gone under the radar.
So what we are looking to do today is change that perception and introduce you to 6 iconic black punk bands that you absolutely have to give a listen.
These bands not only grew the punk scene, they also were a sort of safe heaven for young black kids getting into that sort of music at the time.
Pure Hell (I Know, the band names give some pause for thought) was formed in 1974 thanks to Kenny “Stinker” Gordon and Michael Gordon. They are recognized in many sectors as the first Punk band that could be called an African-American punk band. Their career was short-lived as they have one single– a cover to Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walking”
They did release an album in 2005 called Noise Addiction. They have reformed and maybe we’ll hear something from them soon.
As you can imagine, their name caused quite a bit of controversy due to the nature. The Dead Kennedy’s came together in 1978 and featured just one black member– the drummer, D.H. Peligro and he joined in 1981.
Dead Kennedys were a bit more hardcore than other bands on the list as was shown in their debut album, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables released in 1980. They were also pretty abrasive, sometimes calling out actual politicians in their lyrics and also opposing racism and capitalism.
They went through the independent route even before it became cool, creating Alternative Tentacles in 1979. They broke up in 86 but in 2001, three members reformed the group including Peligro. They have continued to produce music much to the displeasure of original lead singer Jello Biafra who feel betrayed by the band’s alleged change in values
They are often considered the fathers of the afro-punk genre and their sound paved the way for so many others. They came together in 1974 and consisted of three brothers, David, Bobby and Dannis Hackney. Their sound utilised punk and funk elements and credit has to go ‘The Who’ for inspiring a switch from funk to punk. They were active between 1974 and 1976 releasing a number of singles at the time such as “Politicians In My Eyes” b/w “Keep on Knocking.”
They suffered a huge setback in 1975 when while recording an album, they were informed that they were being dropped by their label due to their controversial name.
The band would enjoy a renaissance of sorts in the late 2000s, after songs such as “The Killer of Killers” and “False Positive,” were featured in TV shows. Using this as a springboard, they were able to release two more albums between 2009 and 2011.
Bad Brains was a reggae and funk band formed in Washington in 1977, but soon they went the way of punk and with them brought influences from legendary musicians such as Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder and Black Sabbath, into the mix.
They had a tough time as they were banned in 1979, just two years after formation as many of the clubs in their hometown weren’t very receptive to their sounds or message. They eventually moved to New York City which was of course more receptive to their sound. They were fairly prolific releasing 9 albums after ythe first came out in 1982. Their latest offering is actually from as recent as 2017 and it’s called Mind Power. They also got the documentary treatment in 2012 when the documentary ‘Bad Brains: A Band In D.C.’ was released.
The 60s and 70s were an interesting time for punk in England with bands like the Sex Pistols who weren’t particularly known for their masterful music but for their message and stage presence. X-Ray Spex were an offshoot of the Sex Pistols and were formed in 1976 by lead singer Poly Styrene, They released a single in 1977 called “Oh Bondage! Up Yours!” and this catapulted them to the toop of the British punk scene and their themes of anti-capitalism, feminism and critique of the mainstream made them a highly popular and important band at he time
Germfree Adolescents, their first album, was released in 1978. Poly left the band in 1979 to set off on her own, they came together for a brief period in 1995 which birthed one last album, Conscious consumer. A documentary called PolyStyrene: I am a cliché, is in the works and it will focus on the influential lead singer of the band. It was also co-written by her daughter Celeste Bell.
A lot of the bands here were fusion bands and Fishbone is no exception as their sound was a fusion of Ska, Funk metal and Punk. They came together in 1979 and consisted of the Fisher Brothers and their friends. Their first album, ‘In Your Face’ was released in 1986 They gained some fame even opening for the Beastie boys and getting signed to Columbia Records in 1983.
They finally found some mainstream success after they released their album Truth and Soul. They were dropped by their label in 1995 which sparked some departures, they went independent in 2001 following another incident of being dropped by a label. They are still active and have been like so since their inception.
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