Grant Hart, the co-founder of punk greats Husker Du who brought well-developed melodies and ambitious storylines to a genre known more for abrasiveness, died Thursday, his label said. He was 56.
Hart died in his native Minnesota from a battle with cancer, said label Domino, which in just two months will release a long-awaited box set from long-defunct Husker Du.
Hart was blaring punk rock at his record store in 1978 when student Bob Mould walked in and soon became his songwriting partner.
With Hart on drums and Greg Norton on bass, they formed Husker Du, one of the pioneering punk acts from off the US coasts or Britain and one of several major artists from 1980s Minnesota, the most famous being Prince.
Mould — whose relationship would turn rocky with Hart, especially after Husker Du’s breakup in the late 1980s — hailed his bandmate in a tribute on Facebook.
“When we fought about the details, it was because we both cared. The band was our life. It was an amazing decade,” Mould wrote.
“Grant Hart was a gifted visual artist, a wonderful storyteller, and a frighteningly talented musician. Everyone touched by his spirit will always remember.”
Mould became the face of Husker Du with aggressive vocals and heavy guitar, but Hart put a focus on melodies and, at a time that hardcore punk was going rawer, he helped set the stage for alternative rock with his hook-driven songwriting.
Speaking of his drumming in a 2000 interview with D’Tigers, Mould said: “I saw it as part of a whole set of possibilities for expression, but I found the hardcore thing very limiting and very… dumb.”
“I’ve never really enjoyed that macho, ‘Here are the rules, here’s how you conform’ stuff,” he said.
Hart was bisexual and Mould is gay. While both openly took male partners on the road, sexual orientation never defined Husker Du and Mould only later won a sizable gay following as a DJ.
Hart emphasized story narratives in songs he wrote for Husker Du such as “Books About UFOs” and, after the band broke up, took on more elaborate concepts for albums.
The first album from his post-Husker Du band Nova Mob told of a rocket scientist traveling through time from World War II to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the year 79.
Hart who played guitar and said he wound up as Husker Du’s drummer just because he was able — adapted Milton’s epic poem “Paradise Lost” on his last solo album, “The Argument.”