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Protest Song of the Week: ‘Politicians In My Eyes’ by Death

The Iowa caucuses are upon us, and the legendary black proto-punk band from Detroit, Death, produced a song a little over forty years ago, which is appropriate to mark the occasion.

It is called “Politicians In My Eyes,” and it was written by Bobby Hackney, bassist and singer for Death.

The song has a one-line chorus, “Politicians in my eyes,” and the first verse describes politics as the “number one biggest game.” Politicians will do anything to be boss. “They don’t care who they step on/As long as they get along.”

With war in Vietnam and Cambodia still fresh in people’s minds, Death calls out politicians for “always tryin’ to be slick when they tell us the lies/They’re responsible for sending young men to die.”

A politician tells you they can be better, “but when decision time comes/That’s when they have all the fun.”

Politicians try to befriend you. In the end, they take advantage of citizens. So, tell me why, Death sings, “can’t you hear the people cry.”

The band was influenced by the Detroit rock scene—MC5 and Wayne Kramer, Iggy and the Stooges, Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent & The Amboy Dukes, and Grand Funk Railroad. They also were inspired by The Who, Jimi Hendrix, and Led Zeppelin. Their sound is punk, and they recorded this song before the Sex Pistols or The Clash were major bands in the United Kingdom.

Fast drumming by Dannis Hackney push the song through four verses in just about two minutes. The last three minutes of the song is Death jamming. The mood of the song is anger, frustration and total jadedness toward any politician, who would dare bother them for their vote after swindling them time and time again.

For a brief period, Clive Davis of Columbia Records was willing to produce them. They would not change their name, and when it came time to release their single, “Politicians In My Eyes,” the band was only able to put out 500 copies on their own label, Tryangle Records. It is one of the best all-time underground records and a very difficult gem to find in its original pressing today.

Band member Bobby Hackney has said, “When I wrote that song, at that time politicians were tame compared to how they are today!” He was impressed at how politicians could lie on television in 1976. Inconceivably, the ability of politicians to lie to citizens seems to have grown exponentially throughout the past decades.

The band was profiled in the critically-acclaimed 2013 documentary from Drafthouse Films called, “A Band Called Death.”

Listen to “Politicians In My Eyes” by Death.

Photo by Ryan J. Reilly (2009)
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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."