Hüsker Dü, the band, Grand Hart center

Grant Hart is gone. The most underrated member of the most underrated band to ever come out of my home town in the middlemost part of the midwest, the Twin Cities.

Grant always seemed to live a slightly cursed life. Though Hüsker Dü were successful, he always resented being a drummer, which was kind of thrust upon him on accident. In a way, that almost made it cooler, that he looked like a somewhat unwilling hippie drummer in a famous hardcore band.

His interest in graphic design made the band seem somehow bigger than they were, and many of their album covers were fantastic. I always appreciated a good album cover, and 80s indie bands hand their share of them.

It felt sad that they broke up, yet it felt a lot like how I assumed it felt to people when the Beatles broke up. They were largely consumed by two dramatic, creative forces, and in the 70s both Lennon and McCartney produced lots of good music. We were told that it was a bargain, in a way, and that we were getting much more music than we would have gotten had the band stayed together!

Well, we probably got more music out of Hart and Mould in the 90s than we would have if the band had stayed together, but it wasn’t the same. There’s certainly something to be said for the creative tension that exists within a band, having to tour together, to test out song ideas together, to create an album together. There are certain to be disagreements along the way, but if you can hang in there, there’s a good chance you’ll create something that’s greater than the parts that created it.

Hüsker Dü always seemed to create something great, yet I never stopped loving Grant’s solo work. I remember several albums coming out and getting super excited about them. I would tell everybody, expecting to get a startled and excited reaction, but more often than not they’d just ask me who Grant Hart was. I’d explain, but it didn’t do much good. I guess you had to be there.

I met him, once. He performed at a music store in Portland, probably touring for what turned out to be his last album. I arrived at the store hours beforehand, which turned out to be completely absurd. I stalked the store for a good hour before the slightest sign of anyone there to see him perform took place. I was shocked, I felt like surely somewhere something must have been misprinted. Where were the crowds? This was a band that influenced a great deal of the rock music created since the 80s, everything from Pixies to Nirvana to what-have-you, and no-one was here?

In the end, there were about two dozen people that turned out to see him play. At one point, I felt bold and requested a song from a previous album, “Think It Over Now.” He declined, suggesting that the song required quite a bit of vocal work and he actually had a proper show to play later that night. I was crushed — ever so slightly — but really couldn’t blame him. He remained a pro, and knew what he was capable of.

That’s Grant Hart, in the end. A man who never sought or received all that much of the spotlight, a man firmly rooted in the midwest. Learning about his death, friends posted tons of memories of him on Facebook. I had no idea so many people had interacted with him. It seemed as though everyone in the Twin Cities had spent time with him back there except me, perhaps because I left that town at too tender an age. It was heartening, to see all those memories go up.

Even from old bandmates. Bob Mould posted one of the kindest tributes I’ve read in a long time. Everyone knew this wasn’t a band that was going to get together, but reading Bob’s words, I realized this really was the end. Maybe this is what children of the Sixties felt like when John Lennon was taken from us too soon.

I’ll end with a meditative song of his off one of his last, most dear albums.

You’re the reflection of the moon on the water,
You’re the reflection of the moon on the water,
You’re the reflection of the moon on the water,
But you’re not the moon.

Designer in Portland, Oregon. Wife Kandace, daughters Zoë and Greta. Partner at Needmore Designs, and eternal optimist.

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