Husker Du’s Grant Hart Dies Of Cancer At Age 56

Rolling Stone reports:

Grant Hart, drummer and singer of the seminal alternative rock band Hüsker Dü, has died at 56 after being diagnosed with cancer. The news was confirmed by his bandmate Bob Mould in a lengthy Facebook post.

The St. Paul, Minnesota-born Hart formed Hüsker Dü – Danish for “Do you remember?” – in the late Seventies along with singer/guitarist Bob Mould and bassist Greg Norton. The trio met when Mould, then a college student, frequented the record stores that bassist Greg Norton and Hart worked at. Hüsker Dü bristled against the rubric of the hardcore scene in other ways besides their music: Mould was openly gay and Hart often brought male partners on tour.

The Metal Circus EP, Hüsker Dü’s first release on the famed hardcore label SST, also marked a turning point for the band’s songwriting as they shifted away from hardcore toward a more expansive, varied sound that incorporated elements of punk, folk and straight-up rock and roll. The result was Hüsker Dü’s pioneering double-LP concept album Zen Arcade – “a thrash Quadrophenia,” David Fricke wrote in his 1985 review – which served as a blueprint for the alternative music scene that would bubble up in its aftermath.

On the landmark album – which Rolling Stone placed as Number 33 on the 100 Greatest Albums of the 1980s and Number 13 on the Greatest Punk Albums of All Time lists – Hart contributed songs like the classic overdose saga “Pink Turns to Blue,” “Standing by the Sea” and “Turn on the News,” one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

Bob Mould reflects on Facebook:

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.

  • JoeMyGod

    The obits I’ve seen so far mention Grant Hart’s boyfriends but it’s my understanding that he identified as bisexual…..

    • Rex

      Minnesota Star Tribune mentions that he leaves a “new” wife and adult son.

    • Phillip in L.A.

      Not sure how Mr Hart identified, but it was “common knowledge” during the late ’80s and ’90s (at least among folks in the music biz in Los Angeles) that his relationship with Mr Mould was extremely intimate

  • HZ81

    Aw, god fucking damn it! More than a few of my favorite things have left me this week. Edie Windsor, Frank Vincent and now Grant. Candy Apple Grey is, was and will be the shit.

    RIP, Grant.

  • matrem

    Fuck cancer.

    • Todd20036

      Yup. 56. That’s not even close to being old.

    • Dale Snyder

      That’s what I said, and I beat it.

      Sadly, so many fine people don’t.

  • Jonathan Smith
    • Robincho

      The first 20 mornings weren’t so bad…

      • William

        Other than that sword of Damocles looming on the horizon.

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    • David

      Actually I feel like a crewman on the Enterprise C @ Narendra III, flying back into the rift, with no one in the captian’s chair.

  • bkmn

    Those were the years in Minneapolis – Husker Du, Prince, and so many more. I was lucky to be there. Thank you Grant.

    • Butch

      What was the name of the place on Cedar? Leo Kottke would show up drunk and take over the stage…..I lived right near it.

      • PickyPecker

        The Cabooze.

        • Brian Burleson

          Or Blondies?

      • Daveed_WOW

        Cabooze, Whiskey Junction, the 400, Blondie’s. Cedar Ave = bar

        • Butch

          I’m going with Cabooze – dark place with the stage at the north end of the room, if I’m remembering right. Across from that high rise that Mary Tyler Moore supposedly moved to late in her show. I used to break into that building using a credit card to jimmy the lock because it was the closest place to do laundry.

          • PickyPecker

            Cedar Square west. What a dump. lol

          • Butch

            That’s why I said “supposedly!”

          • Daveed_WOW

            Maybe but you kind of described every club in town😊

      • Gerry Fisher

        Leo’s quite the guitarist.

  • Butch

    I never did know that “Husker Du” meant anything. I just liked the music.
    But, and sorry to personalize this…..the financial advisor has been after me to agree to delaying retirement and every time I see one of these obits I’m more convinced that the delay is a mistake. Life is too uncertain…..

    • Friday
    • David Walker

      If you’ve gone with your gut impulses before and they turned out right, you may want to consider this one even more closely. I retired a year early, but there was stuff I wanted to do and work interfered. I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful it is to wake up when your body says it’s time, not when that feckin’ beeping thing sounds off.

      • Butch

        I doubt the 4 a.m. wakeup call will change because of the critters, but….our upholstery shop is doing really pretty well, but I also work for a corporation because of the benefits. The company got bought out a few years ago and immediately started a race to the bottom, so that I now hate a job I used to at least like. It isn’t so much that I want to quit working completely as that I want to leave that place; health insurance as self-employed is the big concern.

        • Gay Fordham Prep Grad

          Story of my life. All boils down to health insurance.

        • Phillip in L.A.

          Health insurance as self-employed is EXTREMELY expensive–unreasonably so. It is a huge concern!

        • David Walker

          Makes sense. Are there any sane insurance brokers in the area?

  • Jeffg166

    I’m only peripherally aware of Husker Du. First time I heard about them was about 20 years ago when they were reuniting after a ten year hiatus. Now this. I’m old.

    • William

      I smoked a homemade ‘cigarette’ with all three of them around 1987. I’m old.

  • David

    Cancer Sucks!

  • jmax

    Jesus fucking christ. Way too young to die. To repeat an earlier comment, fuck cancer.

  • leo77

    So sorry to hear this. Some of my favorite music from that era. Saw them at The Ritz in NYC on the Warehouse tour. Was supposed to see them again sometime later at an AIDs benefit at The Beacon Theater, but they didn’t show, it was announced a week or so later they had broken up.

  • misterjack

    They were one of the best! Great times…in 1980’s Minneapolis. The Replacements… The Suburbs…Prince…how did I get so old?

    • Brian Burleson

      I wake up every morning and wonder the same. They used to hang out at Mudd Pie back in the day. Good times indeed.

    • David Walker

      To answer your question, a different genre (Broadway musical…surprise!). In “Come from Away,” the first female American Airlines pilot does a list song of her accomplishments…”suddenly” this happened, “suddenly” that, all impressive. The songwriters change the patter one time, near the end, changing “suddenly” to “somehow I’m 51.” Some people, in need of things to complain about, have said how wrong it is to break a verbal pattern; I think it’s fucking brilliant. But, yeah…somehow we get older.

  • Friday

    This one’s been coming to mind a lot this year.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4KiQ6_FMoY

  • Statistics Palin

    Was the name inspired by this lame commercial for a crappy board game?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tk5qmRPNTRs

    • jmax

      From Wikipedia, for what it’s worth:

      The new name originated during a rehearsal of the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer.” Unable to recall the French portions sung in the original (e.g. Qu’est-ce que c’est?), they instead started shouting any foreign-language words they could remember, including the title of the popular 1970s memory board game Hūsker Dū? (the phrase meaning “do you remember?” in Danish and Norwegian). The name stuck, and they added heavy metal umlauts to it.

    • Friday

      (Actually I’d heard they were named more directly for the board game: it’s something my ex from Minnesota grew up with but none of us in Boston had heard of it.)

    • Natty Enquirer

      A variation on the old card game Concentration (a.k.a. Memory).

  • Gerry Fisher

    RIP, Grant. (Here’s Marshall Crenshaw doing a cover of Hart’s “2541.”)

    I admit that I bought “Candy Apple Grey” and couldn’t get into it. I was more into the other members of the Alt Rock trinity of the 80s: REM and the Replacements. I did click into the music of band mate Bob Mould when he formed Sugar. (Sugar featured the drummer of the Boston band Human Sexual Response. HSR was known for the underground campy song, “Jackie Onasis.” However, if you can get your hands on a recording of “In a Roman Mood,” it’s *amazing*.)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvSX5tTgy7E

    • Friday

      My friends and I found them via punk, really. A lot of actual punk music didn’t sound like much of anything on a lot of the equipment we had so a lot of Husker Du and the like got played on old tape recorders and stuff like that. 🙂

      • Gerry Fisher

        I was never a huge punk fan, though I did enjoy my copy of “Never Mind the Bollocks,” and I did see the Clash perform twice (“London Calling” tour). I could go “punk influenced” (the Pretenders, the Jam) but I couldn’t get into hardcore.

        • Friday

          I love the Pretenders. 🙂 (Really, even the Sex Pistols were mixed for the mass market, so it’d play OK… some stuff on local labels and copies ….not so much. 🙂

      • William

        A coworker from Minneapolis had Husker Du cassette tapes back around ’85. It was the first I heard of them.

        Thanks Sally!

      • Phillip in L.A.

        My experience is actually the direct opposite: most “actual punk music” sounded great, but Hüsker Dü for some reason never did

        • Friday

          I’ve always said ‘The world missed out on a perfectly-good New Waver by pissing me off.’ 🙂

          • Phillip in L.A.

            Loved new wave, too! And “New Romantic”

            Adam & The Ants–“Car Trouble (Parts 1& 2),” (A. Ant.) from their 1979 DO IT Records release, Dirk Wears White Søx (RIDE 3)

            https://youtu.be/4nKEQbauVTY

    • leo77

      If your a ‘Mats fan and if you haven’t already check out the book “Trouble Boys”. Very well done music bio. Exhaustively researched and detailed and provides some harrowing insights into Bob Stinson’s troubled life and what was apparently a breakdown Westerberg suffered towards the end of their time on Warner Brothers. If you read the book you will never be able to listen to “All Shook Down” the same way again.

      • Gerry Fisher

        Man, “All Shook Down” rocks me as is. That’s an amazing song…it’s in the vocal delivery, IMO. I *feel* it.

        ..and, FWIW, “Trouble Boys” is a great Dave Edmunds song.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFNBCqPqTog

      • Gerry Fisher

        I never got to see them live, and the word was that, depending on the amount of substances they’d ingested that evening, they would either be brilliant or a total mess. Unfortunately, they seemed to be total messes during many of their Boston gigs, given the nasty write-ups I read about the concerts. (Plus, I clued into the Replacements after “Pleased to Meet Me,” so the band was in decline during the messy gigs.)

        • leo77

          Saw them at The Ritz on a good night, the previous night at the Beacon was a train wreck, a roadie had to bring a folding chair onto the stage and physically sit Westerberg down on it because they were afraid he was going to fall forward and right off the stage.

          At the time they were seen as brilliant drunken clowns, but as the book makes clear, and as is so often the case, substance abuse travels with other issues. What seemed like buffoonery was really deep, deep seated issues of self worth and self destruction. It all fell in on itself when it was time to record their last album for Warner Brothers. They had done a good job of alienating everybody at the label and they were being dropped.

          All Shook Down was the fulfillment of the contract and a cry for help. According to the book Westerberg recorded it while laying on the floor under the piano in a dark studio and while in the throes of some kind of anxiety attack—likely drug and alcohol induced— that among other things hampered his breathing. The pain and fear are palpable in the recording.

      • ralphb

        Don’t forget to pick up the Live At Maxwell’s double cd coming out next month, by all accounts one of their best shows and one of the last with Bob Stinson.
        Saw them at a hard core matinee show at CBGB where they went from the sublime to the ridiculous from one song to the next, sometimes within the same song. Great rock’n’roll band.

        • leo77

          Thanks I will look into it! I live in Hoboken so know Maxwell’s well.

          • ralphb

            I spent a lot of time there, would schlep over from Brooklyn and hang out all night or crash on my buddy’s couch. The back room (or Steve Fallons upstairs apartment) after gigs was always a complete riot.

    • Phillip in L.A.

      I couldn’t get into “Candy Apple Grey” either, Gerry Fisher. I just pulled out the album to take a look at it, and the vinyl and sleeve are pristine–I think I played it a grand total of, maybe, twice.

    • gothambear

      Some Day, Some Way…sounds like the anthem for our community

  • Too soon. What a loss.

  • Michael R
    • Natty Enquirer

      No obligatory cap toss? And there is another verse, boys:

      How will you make it on your own?
      This world is mighty big, and this time, girl,
      You’re on your own.
      Well, it’s time you started living.
      It’s time to let someone else do the giving.

      • misterjack

        And another:
        You are Most Likely to Succeed
        You have got the looks and charm
        And, girl, you know that’s all you need.

      • JCF

        This is the verse that the MTM Show used in S1. It was (I think) in S2 that they switched to the now more-familiar “Who can turn the world on…” The first verse works really well, IMO, w/ the original concept of the MTM Show: that Mary Richards was newly-divorced. CBS nixed that—they feared people would think she was divorced from Dick Van Dyke! O_o

  • PickyPecker

    Rest In Peace, Grant. XO

  • MBear

    *sigh*

    Saw Husker Du in the early 80s on a bill with DOA. Amazing show. I think i was shrooming tho. RIP

    • Phillip in L.A.

      Course you were shrooming–weren’t we all, back then?!? 🙂

      Eminem–My Fault (Mushrooms)

      https://youtu.be/7j2sKBpI8wY

  • easygoingmister

    I held a boom-box blaring Hüsker Dü in front of my face sometime in the mid-80s while getting my first tattoo.

    Oh well.

  • fuzzybits

    RIP Mr. Hart.

  • TheManicMechanic

    Another soundtrack of my earlier, fast-paced adult life has turned silent. Time to root around in the music library and relive those days once again, as I seem to do whenever those who created that soundtrack are no longer here. RIP, Grant, and thanks for the music and memories.

  • romanhans

    Loved Husker Du. Saw them play at UCLA on a bill with the Minutemen and Meat Puppets. You bet your ass music was better back then.

  • ralphb

    Sigh. Husker Du is up there with The Velvets and Bowie as far as musical favorites go, they defied expectations at every turn. There was a period from Metal Circus to Flip Your Wig where the music was just exploding out of them. The Zen Arcade tour was 50% New Day Rising and they played like attack dogs. Tearing into a cover of Eight Miles High that obliterated the original, deconstructing it into a raging protest against stasis.That’s due in no small part to Grant’s abilities as a drummer/guitarist/songwriter. The McCartney to Bob’s Lennon as it were.
    Not to mention that he did all the album covers and band graphics.
    There was a time when Keep Hanging On was something I needed to hear every single day because it gave me hope.
    Grants solo albums (especially Intolerance and The Argument) and Nova Mob albums are all must hears.
    He sought to transcend, move forward always despite his personnel demons.
    It doesn’t matter if millions or hundreds knew about him, he was one of the greats.
    RIP Grant Hart, the world is a lesser place without your buoyant spirit.

  • JCF

    RIPunk.

  • Phillip in L.A.

    Horrible, horrible news, everybody. RIP Grant Hart (1961-2017).

    “Grant Hart was a gifted visual artist, a wonderful story teller, and a
    frighteningly talented musician. Everyone touched by his spirit will
    always remember.”

    Although I have never been the biggest fan of Hüsker Dü, Bob Mould, or Grant Hart, their contributions to musical history are undeniable. My deepest condolence to Mr Hart’s family, friends, and fans.