I am pretty sure it was 1986 when I discovered Husker Du. I was on summer break and my dad took the family on a road trip. Part of the trip was a swing by my Uncle Steve’s house in Atlanta. We did not get there often but it was always the best. my Uncle Steve was the cool uncle to me. He went to Harvard, had this cool house, did things like have cheese plates on the counter. It was also awesome because I got to hang with my cousins; Tad and Ben. Tad and Ben have always been cooler than me and I always loved hanging out with them. That summer was a little different though.
In 1986 I was starting to discover music for myself. My father has always been a huge influence on my musical tastes and which bands I loved but I was turning 13 at that time and was starting to discover music that meant something to me and was not in my father’s music collection. By that time I had discovered U2, Men at Work, and Naked Eyes among other bands; I was learning who Madonna, Culture Club, and Michael Jackson were. I was listening to Van Halen, had the soundtrack to The Ghostbusters, and really liked the Thompson Twins. Honestly, I was kind of an MTV kid and that was just about it. But then I visited my cousins in Atlanta.
The week included the typical Atlanta things, went to Stone Mountain, took in a Braves game, you know, Atlanta stuff. But in the evening as my dad and Uncle Steve were chilling on the patio I hung with Tad and Ben. We were in Tad’s room and he had a stack of cassette tapes on his dresser. They were of bands I had never heard of. Bands like Guadalcanal Diary, R.E.M., The Replacements, and Husker Du. And these bands were like a sonic awakening. They sounded like nothing I had ever heard before. They were beautiful and angry and sang about things I did not understand. They were so cool. I remember writing down all of the names of the bands on a slip of paper and then when I went back to Spokane I looked all over for these tapes. I found many of them but the first on I bought was Husker Du’s Candy Apple Grey.
The album opened my ears to what was possible. Songs like Sorry Somehow and Hardly Getting Over It were maybe too mature for my age at the time but I did not care. I listened to that album over and over and over again. I started buying tapes at a local record store as I learned about them. Mostly I read Rolling Stone magazine at the B.Dalton in the mall to find out which bands I should crush on next. I would scour their “College Radio” album list every issue because I heard that college kids listened to the coolest music. From there I learned about Camper Van Beethoven, Billy Bragg, 10,000 Maniacs, The Smiths and others. I was never the same again. I branched out to Depeche Mode, New Order, Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Dead Kennedys, and The The. And I owe all of that to my cousin Tad and Husker Du.
So that is why I was so saddened today to hear about the passing of Husker Du singer and drummer Grant Hart. That is because when your idols begin to fade you know you might be too. I am 44 now and Grant Hart was 56. Like many rock stars he had drug problems and other health issues and that led to an early grave. But what a legacy he left for this kid. Over 30 years ago I discovered alternative music and have been in love ever sense. I have to admit. There are other bands I like more than Husker Du. But like your first love you don’t forget your first. They will always be special to me.
To me, Husker Du will always be a cassette tape of New Day Rising in my stereo while I lay down on my bed in my room in Spokane dreaming rock and roll dreams. It does not get any better than that.