Grant Hart, Hüsker Dü Drummer and Singer, Dies from Liver Cancer at 56.
Grantzberg “Grant” Vernon Hart (March 18, 1961 – September 14, 2017) was an American musician, best known as the drummer and co-songwriter for the alternative, hardcore punk rock band Hüsker Dü.
Grant was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, the youngest of three children born to a credit union employee and a shop teacher. When he was 10, his older brother was killed by a drunk driver and Grant inherited his brother’s drum kit and records. He began playing in a number of bands as a teenager.
As Hüsker Dü’s co-songwriter, Hart’s songs (including “The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill” and “Turn on the News”) received praise from both critics and contemporaries alike. His vocal style, in contrast to that of his Hüsker Dü bandmate Bob Mould, had a more measured and melodic delivery. His choice of lyrical themes, ranged from teenage alienation in “Standing by the Sea” and the depiction of a murder in “Diane,” to playful story-telling in “Books About UFOs,” and these helped to expand the subject matter of hardcore punk.
American rock music of the past 30 years would have looked very different without the influence of Hüsker Dü.
The band set a relentless pace between 1982 and 1987, playing gruellingly long tours in with shows almost every night, and they released six studio albums and the live collection Land Speed Record (1982). Although their records didn’t score highly on the mainstream charts, they were hugely influential on the new wave of independent American bands that were springing up across the US. Soul Asylum, the Replacements, REM, the Pixies and the grunge scene centring on Seattle all drew inspiration from Hüsker Dü’s music and independent ethic.
The group went far beyond their hardcore-punk-rock origins with the double album Zen Arcade (1984), writing material that incorporated psychedelia, folk and rock’n’roll (the album had been preceded by the single release of a scintillating cover of the Byrds’ acid-rock classic Eight Miles High). Hart wrote or co-wrote 11 of the 23 songs on Zen Arcade, including the peerless “Pink Turns to Blue” and “Turn on the News”. Zen Arcade was placed at 33 in Rolling Stone magazine’s greatest albums of the 1980s, and at 13 on its list of the 40 greatest punk albums of all time.
Their next album was New Day Rising, which Hart contributed such highlights as “The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill” and “Books About UFOs” to. The album reached No 10 on the independent chart in the UK where journalists had been quicker to appreciate Hüsker Dü’s qualities than those in the US. Flip Your Wig (1985), their next album, did even better reaching No 1 on the UK indie chart, In 1986 they signed to Warner Bros. and Candy Apple Grey (1986) was their first album for their new corporate partner, with the singles from it, “Sorry Somehow” and “Don’t Want to Know If You Are Lonely”, which were written and sung by Hart. The latter was subsequently covered by Green Day.
“Warehouse: Songs And Stories (1987)” was Hüsker Dü’s last album and the group split up acrimoniously following a tour in support of the album. Hart’s heroin addiction was blamed, though the suicide of the band’s manager, David Savoy, just before the tour opened was a terrible blow for them.
After Hüsker Dü split, Hart released the solo EP “2541” (1988), followed by the album “Intolerance” (1989) and another EP, “All Of My Senses” (1990). In late 1989 he formed another trio, the Nova Mob, who would release the albums “The Last Days of Pompeii” (1991) and “Nova Mob” (1994).
Hart then reverted to solo work, and released a live album “Ecce Homo” (1995) and “Good News for Modern Man” (1999). “Hot Wax” followed in 2009, and his last completed album was “The Argument” (2013), which was a musical interpretation of John Milton’s Paradise Lost by the Beat poet William Burroughs.
Film-maker Gorman Bechard released a film biography of Hart called “Every Everything: The Music, Life and Times of Grant Hart”, in October 2013.
Hart died from liver cancer on September 14, 2017.
At the time of his death, Hart was working on a concept album about Ted Kaczynski, the so-called Unabomber.
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