Grant Hart, drummer and one third of the highly influential St. Paul, MN band Hüsker Dü has succumbed to cancer at the age of 56, according to Variety. The announcement was made through an uncaptioned photo of Hart on Hüsker Dü’s Facebook page posted around 2 a.m. Thursday.
Hart met singer/guitarist Bob Mould and bassist Greg Norton in 1978 at the Cheapo Records where Hart worked. As Hart remarked in a July 2000 interview with The Onion, it wasn’t so much what the three had in common that brought Hüsker Dü together as a band, but their differences. Hart was a champion of the local scene while Mould was a fan of the punk being made on the East Coast and largely unavailable in the midwest.
The band’s hardcore sound evolved into a more melodic style, earning them airplay on college radio stations around the country. Hüsker Dü’s first release, the single “Statues” was released in 1981 on the band’s own label Reflex Records. Hart’s songwriting contributions were a stark contrast to Mould’s more bitter lyrical style, offering ranging subjects in songs like “Diane” and “It’s Not Funny Anymore,” his contributions to the band’s EP Metal Circus.
Minutemen and fIREHOSE bassist Mike Watt offered his condolences in a Facebook post early Thursday:
Hüsker Dü’s breakthrough came on the seminal double album Zen Arcade, released in 1984. That same year Watt’s Minutemen also released their high watermark Double Nickels on the Dime, both on Greg Ginn’s SST label. The two bands toured together often in the early years and formed a bond in the process.
Hart was the subject of the 2013 documentary Every Everything: The Music, Life and Times of Grant Hart. The film gives a unique inside view of Hart the man and Hart the musician from his youth up to the recording of his final studio album The Argument, a concept album based on John Milton’s Paradise Lost.
Hüsker Dü proved to be a huge influence on what would become the alternative scene of the early 1990s with bands such as the Pixies and Nirvana citing them as an influence. Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic once said,”What Nirvana did was nothing new; Hüsker Dü did it before us.” Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters has cited Hart as a huge early influence on his style of play.
The band was one of the first of the early ’80s punk/hardcore scene to score a major label record deal, signing with Warner Brothers for 1986’s Candy Apple Grey. However, it wasn’t long before tensions between Mould and Hart would lead to the dissolution of the band on the tour for its final album together, the 1987 double album Warehouse: Songs and Stories.
The acrimony continued until just recently when the two performed on stage together at a July show in Minneapolis that also included fellow Minnesotans Babes in Toyland and Soul Asylum. At the end of a set that saw Hart perform several both solo and Hüsker Dü works, Hart signed off simply, “We’ll see you a bit further down the trail.”
Mould paid tribute to his bandmate in a Facebook post early Thursday, saying:
We stopped working together in January 1988. We went on to solo careers, fronting our own bands, finding different ways to tell our individual stories. We stayed in contact over the next 29 years — sometimes peaceful, sometimes difficult, sometimes through go-betweens. For better or worse, that’s how it was, and occasionally that’s what it is when two people care deeply about everything they built together.
The tragic news of Grant’s passing was not unexpected to me. My deepest condolences and thoughts to Grant’s family, friends, and fans around the world.
Grant Hart was a gifted visual artist, a wonderful story teller, and a frighteningly talented musician. Everyone touched by his spirit will always remember.
Godspeed, Grant. I miss you. Be with the angels.
Just last week, it was announced that a new Hüsker Dü box set entitled Savage Young Dü will be released in November. The three-disc box includes 69 tracks recorded during the band’s pre-SST days from 1979-1983 including all of their 7″ singles, a remastered version of their second album Everything Falls Apart and an alternate recording of the debut, Land Speed Record. Also included in the set is a booklet chronicling the band’s early years.
In a 2009 interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Hart offered the following on his legacy:
A long time ago, I started looking at my permanent record — the history of me after I’m gone. Even to speak of it reeks of egotism run wild. But I think when all is said and done, the work that I produced in this lifetime will more than repay the world for any inconvenience I’ve caused it.
Hart is survived his wife Bridget and a son.