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Dead Kennedys

Biography

San Francisco's Dead Kennedys are arguably the most successful, well-respected American punk band of all time. Fronted by Jello Biafra, a political activist, spoken word artist and one-time San Francisco mayoral candidate, the Dead Kennedys combine astoundingly fast hardcore punk with Biafra's distinct, quavering vocals (the source of the nickname "Jello"). Strong adherents to Punk's D.I.Y. ethic, they formed their own record label, Alternative Tentacles, in 1981, to distribute their own as well as other, like-minded music. Although conservative audiences have objected to DK's highly politicized music and artistic decisions -- they were actually prosecuted for violating anti-obscenity laws with the poster insert to their 1985 Frankenchrist album (a move which resulted in Biafra's becoming one of the '80s most important proponents of free speech, although the emotional toll on the band resulted in their dissolution) -- the Dead Kennedys have nevertheless remained punk favorites. In the '90s and beyond, the band and Biafra began a bitter dispute over reunion efforts and the use of the DKs name. Bassist East Bay Ray launched a lawsuit against Biafra for royalty money; Biafra refused an offer to join a DKs reunion tour. The band continues to tour, minus Biafra and to his disdain, under the Dead Kennedys name.
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