Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Godspeed Michael Davis or MC5

Michael Davis, bassist for revolutionary rock band MC5, passed on 17 February 2012 at the age of 68. The cause was liver failure.

Michael Davis was born in Detroit, Michigan on 5 June 1943. He attended Wayne State University in Michigan, but dropped out with the intent of becoming a folk musician. He was briefly married, during which time he lived in Florida and New York. After he returned to Detroit he joined MC5 (short for "Motor City 5"), replacing their original bassist in 1964. It was in 1968 that MC5 was signed to Elektra.  Their first album Kick Out the Jams, was released in 1969. Recorded live at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit on 30 October and 31 October 1968, the album caused some controversy because of some of the lyrics were objectionable for the time.

MC5's second album, Back in the USA, was released in 1970. The sound of MC5 had changed dramatically on Back in the USA, with a sound that approached that of punk rock with hard, fast songs. Back in the USA did not sell as well as Kick Out the Jams, nor would their third album, High Time. Released in 1971, the album sold even worse than Back in the USA. Despite its poor sales, High Time would prove to be a lasting influence on punk rock and heavy metal. Their second and third albums having sold poorly, MC5 was dropped from their label.

Sadly, Michael Davis had developed a problem with substance abuse that would lead to him leaving MC5 in 1972. He would also serve a short jail term. After his release from jail, he joined the art rock band Destroy All Monsters in 1977. He spent seven years with the band. In the Nineties, Michael Davis moved to Arizona. He would then play with Blood Orange, Rich Hopkins, and Luminaros. In 2003 Michael Davis reunited with surviving MC5 members Wayne Kramer and Dennis Thompson to play at the 100 Club in London. This was followed in 2004 by a world tour under the name DKT/MC5.

In addition to playing the bass, Michael Davis was also an abstract painter. He had become interested in art during his time spent in jail and over the decades he even studied art at several schools. His painting "White Panther/Big World” appeared on the cover of the 2009 album MC5: The Very Best of MC5.

As the bassist for MC5 Michael Davis was responsible for much of the band's hard edged sound, the sound that would prove influential with regards to punk rock and heavy metal. Along with the other members of the band he would also write on the first album Kick Out the Jams.  Michael Davis was then one of those few who provided the template for punk rock, years before the genre would actually be recognised. Without Michael Davis and the other members of MC5, there might never have been such bands as The Sex Pistols, Black Flag, or The Dead Kennedys.

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