Grant Hart, the drummer, singer and co-founding member of the Minnesota alternative rock band, Hüsker Dü, died on Sept. 14 after a hard-fought battle with terminal liver cancer. According to the Star Tribune, the Twin Cities rock star was diagnosed and had been battling cancer for months. He was also afflicted with hepatitis C.
News of Hart’s death was first announced via bandmate, Bob Mould‘s Facebook page early Thursday morning. “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,” Mould said, after publishing a detailed reflection on how he and Hart first met. “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.”
In his letter, Mould detailed how the alt-rock outfit, which would go on to be an inspiration to such bands as Nirvana, Metallica, and The Pixies, first formed. Mould first met Hart while he was attending Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn.
“It was the Fall of 1978… 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,” Mould said, in his Facebook statement. “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.”
The band, which consisted of Hart, Mould, bassist Greg Norton, and keyboardist Charlie Pine, first went by the name “Buddy and the Returnables,” before changing it after rehearsing a cover of the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer.” Unable to remember the words, they instead shouted any foreign-language words they could remember, including the name of a popular 1970s board game, “Husker Du.” Adding metal umlauts to the name, which means “do you remember” in Danish, the name stuck and even helped to set them apart from a lot of the other hardcore punk music at the time.
Although Hüsker Dü did not stay together for very long, they did manage to release six full-length studio records in approximately five years time. Ultimately, in January of 1988, the trio stopped working together to focus on their solo careers and forming their own music projects and finding different ways to share their stories.
“We stayed in contact over the next 29 years — sometimes peaceful, sometimes difficult, sometimes through go-betweens,” Mould said. “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.”
Six months after the band broke up, Hart was informed that he was incorrectly diagnosed with HIV. A year later, he released his first solo EP, 2541, which he named after the location of the band’s office and first rehearsal spot. He also went into sobriety and a year later would release two more solo EPs.
Following the break-up, Hart also formed a new band, Nova Mob, along with drummer, Michael Crego, and bassist, Tom Merkl. The band would frequently tour Europe to warm reception and over the years, released two full-length albums, one EP and several singles, before calling it quits.
Hart returned to recording as a solo artist in 1995, with the release of his only live album, Ecce Homo, and his studio album, Good News for Modern Man in 1999.
Mould and Hart would not reunite until 2005, when the two briefly shared the stage for a performance of “Hardly Getting Over It” and “Never Talking to You Again,” during the benefit concert for Karl Mueller, the former bassist for Soul Asylum who wound up losing his battle with cancer at the age of 42.
“To know him was to… I’m not sure ‘love him’ is the right choice of words. I had a ton of respect for the guy. I enjoyed his company. I certainly liked him,” said Ken Shipley, former A&R of Rykodisc and co-founder of The Numero Group, in a long eulogy on the archival label’s website. “It’s impossible not to love/like a guy who sends you a Bob Mould diss Someecard at 2:47 a.m. How can you not love/like someone who insists on a high-end sushi restaurant for your first meal together and then promptly orders enough food to cover his next two meals? Grant was tortured for sure, but he had a hell of a lot of fun bringing you in on the joke, even if you were part of the punchline.”
Later this year, Savage Young Du, a collection of recordings from the days before the band formed the label, SST Records, will be released by The Numero Group. It will include Metal Circus and Everything Falls Apart in their entirety as well as an alternate version of Land Speed Record and is expected to be released on Nov. 10, 2017.