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Dead Kennedys
2019 Dead Kennedys - by 2eight - ZSC5161.jpg
Dead Kennedys performing in 2019
Background information
Origin San Francisco, California, U.S.
Years active
  • 1978–1986
  • 2001–present
  • Cherry Red
  • Faulty Products
  • Alternative Tentacles
  • Manifesto/Decay
Associated acts
  • Skrapyard
  • The Jungle Studs
  • Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine
  • Lard
  • False Alarm
  • Melvins
  • D.O.A.
  • Against All Will
Members East Bay Ray
Klaus Flouride
Ron "Skip" Greer
Past members Jello Biafra
Brandon Cruz
Jeff Penalty
Dave Scheff
Greg Reeves
D. H. Peligro

Dead Kennedys are an American punk rock band that formed in San Francisco, California, in 1978. The band was one of the defining punk bands during its initial eight-year run.

Dead Kennedys' lyrics were usually political in nature, satirizing political figures and authority in general, as well as popular culture and even the punk movement itself. During their initial incarnation between 1978 and 1986, they attracted considerable controversy for their provocative lyrics and artwork. Several stores refused to stock their recordings, provoking debate about censorship in rock music.

The group released a total of four studio albums and one EP before disbanding in 1986. Following the band's dissolution, Biafra continued to collaborate and record with other artists including D.O.A., NoMeansNo and his own bands Lard and the Guantanamo School of Medicine, as well as releasing several spoken word performances.

Although Dead Kennedys have continued to perform live over the years, they have not released any new material since the release of their fourth studio album Bedtime for Democracy in 1986.


Dead Kennedys formed in June 1978 in San Francisco, California. The original band lineup consisted of East Bay Ray on lead guitar, Klaus Flouride (Geoffrey Lyall) on bass, Jello Biafra (Eric Reed Boucher) on vocals, Ted (Bruce Slesinger) on drums and 6025 (Carlos Cadona) on rhythm guitar. This lineup recorded their first demos. Their first live show was on July 19, 1978, at Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco, California.

A live performance photo

In June 1980, the band recorded their debut album, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, released in September of that year on the UK label Cherry Red. The album reached number 33 on the UK Albums Chart.

In January 1981, Ted announced that he wanted to leave to pursue a career in architecture and would help look for a replacement. He played his last concert in February 1981. His replacement was D. H. Peligro (Darren Henley).

After Peligro joined the band, the extended play In God We Trust, Inc. (1981) saw them move toward a more aggressive hardcore/thrash sound. In 1982, they released their second studio album, Plastic Surgery Disasters.

The band's music had evolved considerably in a short time, moving away from hardcore formulae toward a more innovative jazz-informed style, featuring musicianship and dynamics far beyond other bands in the genre. By now the group had become a de facto political force, pitting itself against rising elements of American social and political life such as the religious right, Ronald Reagan and the idle rich. The band continued touring all over the United States, as well as Europe and Australia, and gained a large underground following. The band continued to write and perform new material during this time, which would appear on their next album.

The release of the album Frankenchrist in 1985 showed the band had grown in musical proficiency and lyrical maturity. While there were still a number of loud/fast songs, much of the music featured an eclectic mix of instruments including trumpets and synthesizers. Around this time Klaus Flouride released the similarly experimental solo EP Cha Cha Cha With Mr. Flouride. Lyrically, the band continued their trademark social commentary.

The band decided to split up in January of 1986, prior to the recording and release of Bedtime for Democracy, and played their last live show with the original lineup on 21 February. Biafra went on to speak about his political beliefs on numerous television shows and he released a number of spoken-word albums. Ray, Flouride, and Peligro also went on to solo careers.


In 2001, Ray, Peligro, and Flouride reformed the Dead Kennedys, with former Dr. Know singer Brandon Cruz replacing Biafra on vocals. The band played under the name "DK Kennedys" for a few concerts, but later reverted to "Dead Kennedys" permanently. They played across the continental United States, Europe, Asia, South America, and Russia. Brandon Cruz left the band in May 2003 and was replaced by Jeff Penalty. The band has released two live albums of archival performances on Manifesto Records: Mutiny on the Bay, compiled from various live shows including a recording from their last show with Biafra in 1986, and Live at the Deaf Club, a recording of a 1979 performance at the Deaf Club in San Francisco which was greeted with more enthusiasm.

On October 9, 2007, a best of album titled Milking the Sacred Cow was released. It includes two previously unreleased live versions of "Soup Is Good Food" and "Jock-O-Rama", originally found on Frankenchrist.

Jeff Penalty left the band in March 2008. He was replaced by former Wynona Riders singer Ron "Skip" Greer. D. H. Peligro also left the band to "take some personal time off". He was replaced for a tour by Translator drummer Dave Scheff.

On August 21, 2008, the band announced an extended break from touring due to the health-related issues of Flouride and Peligro. They stated their plans to collaborate on new projects.

Dead Kennedys had world tours in 2013 and in 2014, the latter mostly in North American cities. In 2015 and 2016 they toured again, including South America, where they had not played since 2001.

On April 26, 2019, the group released DK40, a live compilation album celebrating 40 years since the band formed.

On October 28, 2022, D. H. Peligro died due to trauma resulting from a head injury suffered in an accidental fall.




  • Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (1980)
  • Plastic Surgery Disasters (1982)
  • Frankenchrist (1985)
  • Bedtime for Democracy (1986)

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Dead Kennedys para niños

  • List of bands from the San Francisco Bay Area
  • Ronald Reagan in music

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