Evergreen Memorial Drive: Remembering Grant Hart

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It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to Grant Hart.

So like I did with Bowie and Prince and Strummer, I’m just not going to do it.

The easier thing is to remember the first bells of the heart being rung, so instead of executing a clumsy farewell to someone I’ve never met, I’m going to do the former.

My dear friend and former radio partner David Fieni introduced me to Hüsker Dü in 1986 by way of New Day Rising, a jagged and gorgeous album of pure and blinding blistering glory. As I took residence in the Minneapolis band’s universe, my brain swirled with psychic warfare, celebrated summers, girls living on heaven hill and books about U.F.O.’s.

New Day Rising seemed to take place in an angular world of sepia and sorrow–frustration and longing seeped through the grooves of the vinyl and every single song blasted my heart all over the place

Weeks later, I remember reading Creem in a Pleasant Hill library and stumbling on a piece about the band. I had no idea what they looked like, but there they were: Bob Mould, Greg Norton and Hart standing by a van and looking like defiant milkmen.  They were a power trio of muscles, mustaches and menace.

Because Mould and Hart both sang and wrote their own songs, everyone liked to pick sides with Hüsker Dü. They were like a post-punk Lennon and McCartney–glorious together and glorious apart, but decidedly polarizing among their fan base.

Both sang about anguish, regret and heartache and both sang about weathering storms. But while Mould sang about what came from them, Hart seemed more interested in where they came from. Mould was of this earth–primal, raging and demolished. But Hart was from the heavens and he sang majestically from the tops of foggy mountains down into the valleys.  His songs had angles, turns and gears and though they rang out from lofty pop heights, you could still make out their scruffy centers.

There were rockabilly rave-ups (“Actual Condition”), orchards of cymbals (“Green Eyes”), weathered glory (“Evergreen Memorial Drive”) and aching pop jaunts (“Where You Gonna Land Next Time You Fall Off Of Your Mountain”) and each one came with a momentum that felt as internal as it did external. Hart was a man who could care less about the earthquakes–those would always rumble in and out of our lives like the tides–he was more consumed by the rubble; how it landed, where it landed and the process of sorting through it.

His work with Hüsker Dü was a stunning example of pop with momentum; his work with Nova Mob was conceptual, literate and infectious and his solo efforts were a mixture of the two, punctuated by tremendous sensitivity and poeticism.

Hart leaves behind a body of work that will last you until the end of your life. It’s a riveting canon of battered beauty that’s as arresting as it is intimate.

One of Hart’s favorite poets John Milton once wrote: “He who reins within himself and rules passions, desires, and fears is more than a king.”

Even though he’s gone, Hart will never leave the palace.