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; in the mid-1980s, vocalist and primary lyricist Jello Biafra became an active campaigner against the Parents Music Resource Center. This culminated in an obscenity trial between 1985 and 1986, which resulted in a hung jury.
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.
In 2000 (upheld on appeal in 2003), Biafra lost an acrimonious legal case initiated by his former Dead Kennedys bandmates over songwriting credits and unpaid royalties. In 2001, the band reformed without Biafra; various singers have since been recruited for vocal duties. 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.