Grant Hart, the founder of Husker Du, Nova Mob and an acclaimed solo artist, passed away on September 14th 2017, aged 56. There are no details of the cause of his death at this time, but Hart had been suffering from Cancer.
Hart formed Husker Du in 1979, in Minneapolis USA, with guitarist/vocalist Bob Mould and bassist Greg Norton. They released their first single “Statues” on Reflex – their own label and began a career which packed six albums and hundreds of shows into eight years. Cited as a major influence on Nirvana and the Pixies among many others, Husker Du combined a punk rock ethic with a pop sensibility to create some of the greatest American alternative music of the last century. Following a show in Columbia, Missouri in 1987, the band acrimoniously split and aside from one appearance – a benefit show for Karl Mueller, bassist with fellow Minneapolis band Soul Asylum, Hart and the other significant songwriter in the band, Bob Mould, never worked together again.
After the demise of Husker Du, Hart recorded a solo EP, featuring “2541” – a song which has become one of his most celebrated compositions. His first full length solo work, “Intolerance”, was released in 1989. Later that year, Hart formed Nova Mob where he moved from drums to guitar and vocals. Although warmly received in Europe, the band never achieved the level of success that their live shows and accomplished recordings deserved.
In 1995, he recorded “Ecce Homo” – a live album and his first solo release since “Intolerance”, which he followed in 1999 with “Good News for Modern Man”. It wasn’t until 2009 that he released “Hot Wax” where he was backed by members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. His final album – “The Argument”, which is based on Milton’s “Paradise Lost”, appeared in 2013. Also that year, a documentary film on his life and music, “Every Everything” was released, following a successful crowdfunding campaign.
Whilst in Husker Du, Hart sweetened their hardcore energy with a strong melodic influence which was out of character for a punk rock band. Their early material is an all-out punk assault, but by the time of their 1984 album, the groundbreaking “Zen Arcade”, the band were moving away from a purely hardcore aesthetic, incorporating almost psychedelic elements to their sound. Hart used this eclectic approach on all of his solo work.
Hart played a huge part in the development of alternative music. Without Husker Du, one could argue that there would be no Pixies (who famously recruited band members with an advert asking for people “into Peter, Paul and Mary and Husker Du”) or Nirvana. His solo albums showed he had matured into an erudite songwriter, who preferred to turn his back on the typical lyrical content of popular music and look at classical works or beat poetry for inspiration. His solo shows were engaging and unpredictable and would often include Husker Du songs alongside his own, solo compositions, as can be heard on the “Ecce Homo” live album.
Despite pressure to reform Husker Du in the light of their posthumous acclaim, the band never worked together after 1987. A boxed set of their early work, “Savage Young Du” is due for release in November this year.
His bandmate Bob Mould, paid tribute to Hart on his FaceBook page:
“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.”
— Ryan Adams (@TheRyanAdams) September 14, 2017
Wonderful show in Vancouver, but gutted to get offstage and hear that Grant Hart has died. I fucking adore Hüsker Dü. Sad news.
— Frank Turner (@frankturner) September 14, 2017
Grant Hart wrote some of the songs that matter the most to me. Thank you and Rest in Peace.
— Craig Finn (@steadycraig) September 14, 2017