Grant Hart, the co-founding drummer of legendary Twin Cities punk trio Hüsker Dü, has died. He was 56. The musician's cause of death has yet to be confirmed, but is believed to be cancer, the band's publicist, Ken Weinstein, told the New York Times. Hart was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer earlier this year.
Grant Hart – né Grantzberg Vernon Hart in 1961 – grew up in South St. Paul, Minnesota. A professional musician from the age of 13, he met his eventual Hüsker Dü bandmates, guitarist Bob Mould and bassist Greg Norton, while working at a nearby record store in the late 1970s. The three friends started jamming together, with the creative tag-team of Hart and Mould (who alternated songwriting and vocal duties) acting as nexus. Hart, Mould and Norton officially formed the band in 1979.
Hüsker Dü's pioneering mix of punk, pop and hardcore, coupled with their rowdy live shows and prolific output, quickly sealed Hart and Co.'s destiny as vanguards of the 1980s hardcore punk movement. 1984's seminal double album Zen Arcade confirmed the band's apotheosis; Roiling, empassioned and emotional, the record – essentially a musical coming-of-age tale, starring a young boy who runs away from home – earned the respect of critics and listeners far removed from the basement-show set, proving evidence of hardcore's validity as a lasting art form, as opposed to a passing, noisy fad.
After releasing New Day Rising, Zen Arcade's similarly adored follow-up, in 1985, Hüsker Dü signed to Warner Bros., releasing two more albums until their breakup in 1988. The split was final, despite ample fan speculation: when rumors of a potential Hüsker Dü reunion bubbled forth, in 2013, Hart told the Village Voice, "I've always lived with the doctrine of Patti Smith: 'I don't fuck much with the past, but I fuck plenty with the future.'"
Post-Hüsker Dü, Hart pivoted to solo work 1988's 2541 EP and the following year's album, Intolerance. During this time, he also formed and fronted another Twin Cities trio, Nova Mob, who released two albums before splitting in 1997, never to reunite.
Hart's output since then proved sporadic, but no less ambitious; his most recent release was 2013's The Argument, a double album inspired by John Milton's Paradise Lost (by way of the artist's friendship with writer William S. Burroughs). This past May, he wrapped up a solo tour alongside the Meat Puppets and Minutemen's Mike Watt.
Mould paid tribute to Grant on his Facebook page following news of his passing Wednesday night. "Grant Hart was a gifted visual artist, a wonderful story teller, and a frighteningly talented musician," the guitarist wrote. "Everyone touched by his spirit will always remember." Coincidentally, reissue label the Numero Group are set to release box set containing early Hüsker Dü material in November.