Mike Davis, punk rock pioneer, dead at 68
Mike Davis, who helped pioneer punk rock with Detroit's legendary the MC5, and later played with Tucson's Rich Hopkins and Luminarios, died Friday of liver failure. He was 68.
Davis died in a Chico, Calif. hospital Friday afternoon after a month-long battle with liver disease.
Davis began his long music career providing a solid bottom end for proto-punkers the MC5, beginning in 1964.
The band, politically influenced by the Black Panther Party and beat poets like Allen Ginsberg, played at the protests against the Vietnam War at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. The MC5 played for eight hours straight during the protests.
Their 1969 debut album "Kick Out the Jams" was a watershed combination of confrontational clarion calls and thrashing guitar that laid the foundation for punk rock to come.
Known for their edgy performances — the band would often appear onstage toting rifles — the MC5 recorded "Kick Out the Jams" live at a pair of shows at Detroit's Grande Ballroom. The title track's rallying "Kick out the jams, motherfuckers!" was edited on some album copies and a single released to radio with an overdub of "brothers and sisters."
The band made two more records — 1970's "Back in the USA" (produced by Springsteen svengali to-be Jon Landau) and 1971's "High Time" — that would further influence the sounds of the decade's punk and hard rock bands. But the MC5 never topped the charts, and the band fell apart, riven by drug use and creative conflicts.
Davis was pushed out of the group in 1972, and shortly after served a prison term for narcotics. After his release, he played with the Ann Arbor, Mich., noise band Destroy All Monsters through the mid-'80s.
In the mid-'90s, he joined Rick Hopkins and Luminarios after a move to Tucson.
Davis spent about a decade playing with the desert rock band, recording and touring Europe, where they are especially popular.
He then moved to California to focus on his artwork.
After a 2006 motorcycle crash in which he severely injured his back, Davis and his wife Angela founded a nonprofit organization to support music education in public schools.
Beyond his own painting, he collaborated with street artist Shepard Fairey and others.
He is survived by his wife, their three sons, and a daughter from a previous marriage.