Reports are coming in that Grant Hart has died. He was 56 – and his battle with cancer is over. The former Hüsker Dü and Nova Mob singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist had released a handful of solo albums too – the brilliant Intolerance could be a highlight of anyone’s record collection; it’s chock full of ideas, bursting with great tunes. I really liked his double, The Argument from as recent as 2013. And there were highlights on every album.
Hart was the drummer for Hüsker Dü but he was so much more than that. He was co-songwriter, he played keys, percussion and sometimes added bass or guitars. And he wrote many of the band’s finest songs.
But I first knew of him as a drummer – in a band I grew to love. Hüsker Dü was a group I read about, heard about…long before I listened to them. By the time I arrived at their records it was with full knowledge of Bob Mould as a hero who had formed another group, Sugar. And had released solo albums. I knew his post- Hüsker material first, then went back to hear the band – thinking, at first, that he was the leader, the songwriter. So I appreciated Hart’s rhythmic ideas and his trap-set playing.
A few liner notes later and I find that as much as I love Mould many of my favourite songs on the Hüsker albums are by Grant Hart. Fascinated by singing, songwriting drummers he now becomes my favourite element of the group. And I fell for his solo albums too.
In fact my favourite Hüsker Dü records are my nostalgic favourites, the ones I heard first. Candy Apple Grey and Warehouse: Songs and Stories. I like the earlier albums – sure. But these two are chocked full of my favourite songs, and in many ways Hart was doing the heavy lifting.
I never got to see him play. A mistake – as I had the opportunity and chose another gig on the same night. I regretted that then. More so ever since.
Also I exchanged a few emails with him – nothing memorial. Just work. I was supposed to tee up an interview with him. It never happened. His messages were weird, overly familiar, strangely worded, intense. I didn’t mind that – it was just a little odd.
I was pretty sure he was a genius – a pat the head, rub the tummy type that could do almost anything with music. For a guy behind the kit he had a brilliant melodic sense, channelling beautiful music in and out through and around wondrous noise.
A boxset assessing the earliest years of Hüsker Dü is due in a couple of months. Titled Savage Young Dü it will no doubt send people back to the sound of one of American indie music’s most important and influential bands. It will create many new fans too. Somewhere on the other side of that magic there’s plenty of brilliant work from Grant Hart the solo artist. And it arrives on the back of the brilliant middle-period and final Hüsker songs that Hart wrote and sang.
R.I.P. Grant Hart