Drummer Grant Hart, Co-Founder Of Punk Band Hüsker Dü, Dies At 56

Sep 14, 2017
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

And now we remember Grant Hart. He was the drummer, songwriter and co-founder of the influential punk band Husker Du. Hart died last night at the age of 56 after being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. While never a big commercial success, Husker Du was seen as a major influence on bands like Nirvana, Green Day and the Foo Fighters. NPR's Andrew Limbong has this appreciation of Hart and his music.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: Before Husker Du proved itself to be important to the punk scene, to indie rock, to their hometown, the trio simply ripped.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IT'S NOT FUNNY ANYMORE")

HUSKER DU: (Singing) You can do what you want to do. You can say what you want to say.

LIMBONG: Grant Hart was working in a record store in St. Paul, Minn., in the late 1970s when he met guitarist Bob Mould and bass player Greg Norton and formed Husker Du. Hart and Mould traded singing and songwriting duties, one often trying to outdo the other. Their early hardcore stuff made them scene-famous, but it was their 1984 double album "Zen Arcade" that blew them up.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PINK TURNS TO BLUE")

HUSKER DU: (Singing) She was always by my side and never tried to leave.

LIMBONG: Compared to Bob Mould's throat-scratching songs, Hart's were practically gentle.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PINK TURNS TO BLUE")

HUSKER DU: (Singing) I don't know what do now that pink has turned to blue.

LIMBONG: In person, though, he could be a bit brusque. Ken Shipley is the co-founder of the Numero Group, a label that's putting together a massive retrospective of Husker Du's early material called "Savage Young Du." Shipley says he liked and respected Hart immensely, but the drummer and songwriter didn't make the process easy.

KEN SHIPLEY: At the very last minute, he was like, we got to change the title to "Broken Promises." And you know, it was just, like, such a dig at everybody who was involved in the whole thing. And that's so apt in a way because, like, you know, we weren't, you know - I sort of promised him that we'd get this record out before he went, and we just couldn't do it.

LIMBONG: Husker Du broke up after recording two albums for a major label. Grant Hart formed other bands. And in 2013, he put out a record called "The Argument," an adaptation of William S. Burroughs' adaptation of John Milton's "Paradise Lost." He talked about it with NPR when it came out.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

GRANT HART: I've always been attracted to the line awake, arise or be forever fallen. You know, there's a revolutionary in me that really loves that kind of thinking.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AWAKE, ARISE!")

HUSKER DU: (Signing) I would never serve in heaven when in hell I can command.

LIMBONG: In a Facebook post, Husker Du bandmate Bob Mould wrote, quote, "Grant Hart was a gifted visual artist, a wonderful storyteller and a frighteningly talented musician. Everyone touched by His Spirit will always remember." Andrew Limbong, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SORRY SOMEHOW")

HUSKER DU: (Singing) You're making me sorry, sorry somehow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.