Grant Hart, a drummer, singer, and guitarist best known for his foundational role in Minnesota hardcore pioneers Husker Dü, has died. He was 56 years old, and the cause was cancer.
Husker Dü guitarist Bob Mould confirmed Hart’s death on his Facebook page early Thursday.
Hart formed Husker Dü in Saint Paul, Minn., in 1979 along with Mould and bassist Greg Norton. He and Mould served as the band’s primary songwriters on seminal albums like 1984’s Zen Arcade, with its intoxicating mix of pop hooks and sheer speed. Husker Dü grew quickly and became one of the first underground indie bands to land with a major label, signing with Warner Bros. in 1986 and releasing two more studio records before breaking up in 1987. Hart struggled with drug addiction but forged ahead with his music career, releasing a solo album and later forming the band Nova Mob, for which he played guitar and sang.
Hart ultimately released five solo albums, the last being 2013’s The Argument, an ambitious endeavor based in part on John Milton’s Paradise Lost and William S. Burroughs’s unpublished sci-fi story Lost Paradise.
Mould wrote Thursday morning about meeting Hart as a freshman at Macalester College in St. Paul. “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 goes on to recount the pair’s sometimes rocky relationship following the collapse of Husker Dü: “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.”
Ken Shipley, who runs Husker Dü’s record label, Numero Group, had been working with Hart on a forthcoming release of archived band recordings. On Thursday, Shipley wrote: “The last time I saw Grant was in March of this year. I was in Minneapolis to gather a few more bits and bobs and scheduled time to go to dinner. He wanted pizza and suggested Red’s Savoy in downtown St. Paul. He ordered enough to have leftovers the next day. He was a bit gaunt, but wisecracking and flirting with the waitress all the while. This time we shook hands at the end. He was too weak for a hug. When plans were made to fly out to the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle to pour through his archives, he wanted to join. But when it came time to go, he suddenly cooled to the idea and withdrew from the project entirely. ‘Can you get it out before I go?’ he asked.