Husker Du’s Grant Hart Dies at 56

Grant Hart Dead
Screenshot/YouTube

Variety has confirmed that Grant Hart, drummer and co-lead singer of influential American indie band Husker Du, has died. He was 56 and had been battling cancer.

Around 11 p.m. Pacific Time, the official Husker Du Facebook page posted a photo of Grant with no caption.

The Minneapolis band, which Hart formed with fellow singer-songwriter Bob Mould and bassist Greg Norton in 1979, was one of the leading lights of the American independent-rock movement of the 1980s. While strongly influenced by punk and the then-burgeoning West Coast hardcore scene, the band’s melodic leanings increasingly came to the fore on its later releases. As part of an unexpectedly strong local rock scene that also included the Replacements and Soul Asylum, the group had signed with Warner Bros. and were at the peak of their popularity when they split acrimoniously in early 1988. Mould went on to a successful solo career that included solo albums, a stint leading the band Sugar and even as a creative consultant for World Championship Wrestling; Hart released several albums and EPs over the years both solo and as leader of the band Nova Mob.

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While the Huskers’ split was so bitter that the bandmembers only recently began communicating regularly again — around the forthcoming release of “Savage Young Du,” a sprawling three-disc compilation of much of the band’s earliest material. Yet  the prolific and hard-touring Huskers cast a wide shadow over American rock of the ’80s and ’90s and beyond, influencing untold thousands of fans and musicians, not least Foo Fighters frontman and former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl.

The group worked as hard as they played, touring relentlessly between 1982-87 and releasing some seven albums — two of them double discs — in those five years. Their early recordings, released on their own Reflex Records, were marred by poor sound (which is dramatically improved on “Savage Young Du”), but the band’s greatness truly began to emerge when they joined the orbit of SST Records, the massively influential independent label run founded by Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn. The Huskers toured with that band and adapted their Spartan work ethic as well, cris-crossing the country playing nearly every night for months on end. Aided by the burgeoning American indie-rock network of venues, fanzines, record stores and college radio stations, the band inspired and helped to build scenes and bands all across the country.

The band began to rise above the hardcore scene with a 1984 single that found the band delivering a roaring cover of The Byrds’ psychedelic 1967 hit “Eight Miles High.” The comic contrast between the band’s high-speed, searing assault and the hazy original caught the attention of the influential British music press, and the band was soon receiving higher-profile publicity in England than it was at home. Later that year the band released its opus, “Zen Arcade,” a sprawling double album that found both its psychedelic and melodic influences coming to the fore. In 1985 it released the equally strong “New Day Rising” and arguably its most popular song, “Makes No Sense at All,” followed later that year by the “Flip Your Wig” album.

Frustrated with the limitations of the indie world, the group signed with the famously artist-friendly Warner Bros. in 1986. The group’s move into more melodic territory continued with its debut for  the label, “Candy Apple Grey,” which featured its first ballad and cleaner sound that still retained their furious rock energy. Another double, “Warehouse,” followed in 1987, but the band splintered on the tour that followed. Their young manager, David Savoy, committed suicide and Mould took on many of his duties; the ensuing strain was exacerbated by Hart’s heroin addiction and the built-up tension from spending five years in a van with the same people. The group split bitterly in January 1988 and only recently began communicating again regularly.

Thursday morning, Mould posted two photos of himself and Hart, one from early in the band’s career and and a more recent one, and wrote the following post:

 “It was the Fall of 1978. I was attending Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. One block from my dormitory was a tiny store called Cheapo Records. There was a PA system set up near the front door blaring punk rock. I went inside and ended up hanging out with the only person in the shop. His name was Grant Hart.

“The next nine years of my life was spent side-by-side with Grant. We made amazing music together. We (almost) always agreed on how to present our collective work to the world. When we fought about the details, it was because we both cared. The band was our life. It was an amazing decade.

“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.”

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  1. KStebner says:

    I didn’t dig your music, but I dug your spirit. That subzero night in 1982 we partied at your house in Kaposia with your brother CHart. Mould, Upper, Chap, and Pattie Cashbox were there jamming to your new release Land Speed Record. We stole Vern’s homemade wine from under the staircase and played the Danish board game you named the band after. I called you Grantsberg and you dug it, I think the name stuck. You struggled with your oldest brother’s death as his TR4 rotted in the garage. So did your Nomad, sprayed in primer Grey; not the Candy Apple we hoped to see. Your pain and addiction divided your family and much was lost, but now you are at peace in another world, and you will not be forgotten in ours. Rest In Peace, Grantzberg, P.S. I meant it with an s.

  2. Steve says:

    Husker Du may not have been the first band to attempt to mix bruising hardcore punk with strong melodies and songcraft, but they’re the ones who pushed that kind of music forward and virtually perfected the form. As such, they influenced a good portion of the music I listen to.

    The band simply would not have been as great if it had only been The Bob Mould Show. Grant Hart wrote my favorite Husker song, “Pink Turns To Blue”. He was a major figure in heavy music.

    56 is too young, but we get the time we get. Thanks for doing what you did while you were here, Grant. Rest in peace.

    • Jason says:

      Jason the J Man says: I met Grant in Minneapolis when I was 16 years old with my two friends Larry and Jim we were seeing the Huskers perform that fine evening of our youth at the Oddfellows Hall in Minneapolis 35 years ago. We hung out with Grant after the show and it was the start of a friendship that lasted for years! What a brilliant song writer, singer and performer! His follow up band Nova Mob was also worth mentioning they had two poignant records that had much punch, melody and charisma.! You will be missed Grant! His impact on the Minneapolis music scene and the National and International scene is profound and real. Grant’s songs and influence on the rock n roll world shall live on!

  3. bill says:

    RIP Grant. Too soon.

  4. George says:

    RIP Grant, you and the Huskers were a joy and I can’t tell you how many times I spun your records, then CDs. Still do. Your shows were inspiring and those times are missed. Thanks for all you did for me, my friends and your fans, let alone your family and band mates.

  5. Jake says:

    Great band, that era from the late seventies through the nineties had such great music talent that we’ll never see the likes of again. “I apologize”, Books about UFOs”, and the classic “Don’t want to know if you are lonely”, just to mention a few. Back when we had answering machines I used “the phone is ringing and the clock says four AM” section from “Don’t want to know” as my answering machine greeting. Good times… :)

  6. nerob says:

    Will miss you #granthart
    Only For Grant Hart Lover T-Shirt
    >> https://goo.gl/S3tmJs

  7. Tom Clarke says:

    Bob no-none folks!

  8. bob says:

    Sorry He’s gone but if you mean they were an “key influence” on the Foo’s by being a band that rocked but had no songs save their live’s… well, you nailed it!

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