Grant Hart in 2000. (Jeff Wheeler/AP)

Grant Hart, the drummer and vocalist for the pioneering indie rock band Hüsker Dü, which was seen as a major influence on Nirvana, the Pixies and other genre-defining bands, died Sept. 13 at his home in St. Paul, Minn. He was 56.

Ken Shipley, who runs the band's record label, Numero Group, confirmed the death. The cause was cancer.

Mr. Hart formed Hüsker Dü — the name of a Scandinavian board game meaning "Do you remember?" — in 1978 with bassist Greg Norton and guitarist Bob Mould, with whom he shared singing duties. The band began as a punk outfit in St. Paul before moving into alternative rock. After the trio broke up in 1987, Mr. Hart launched a solo career.

Hüsker Dü was never a huge commercial success, but the group was considered an inspiration to many later bands, including Nirvana, Green Day, the Pixies and the Foo Fighters.

Mould recalled on his Facebook page how the two met in 1978 at a St. Paul record store where Mr. Hart was clerking and the sound system was blaring punk rock.

"The next nine years of my life was spent side-by-side with Grant," Mould wrote. "We made amazing music together. We (almost) always agreed on how to present our collective work to the world. When we fought about the details, it was because we both cared. The band was our life."


Grant Hart performing in Washington in 2011 at the Black Cat. (Josh Sisk/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

One of the ways Hüsker Dü differed from many alternative rock groups was that Mould was openly gay and Mr. Hart was openly bisexual.

In the band's early years, Mould was considered the primary creative force, writing most of the songs and taking the role of lead singer. Mr. Hart, who usually played drums barefoot, later began to write and sing more original material.

The band reached its peak in the mid-1980s with three influential albums. The 1984 double album "Zen Arcade" was considered a landmark recording and a major influence on the growing alternative rock scene. With songs such as "Pink Turns to Blue," "Standing by the Sea" and "Turn on the News," the album occupied the No. 33 spot on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the top 100 albums of the 1980s.

The group quickly followed up the success of "Zen Arcade" the next year with two more well-received albums, "New Day Rising" — featuring the songs "The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill" and "Books About UFOs" — and "Flip Your Wig."

In a 1985 review of "Flip Your Wig," Rolling Stone critic Rob Tannenbaum described Mr. Hart as the group's "resident spiritualist" and "the voice of dippy wisdom in Mould's emotional maelstrom."

Amid creative differences and growing tension attributed to Mr. Hart's heroin addiction, the band had an acrimonious breakup in the middle of a tour in 1987.

Grantszburg Vernon Hart was born March 18, 1961, in St. Paul. His father was a shop teacher, and his mother worked at a credit union.

He began playing a drum set that belonged to his older brother, who was killed in a car accident when Mr. Hart was 10. He played keyboard in bands before forming Hüsker Dü.

Mr. Hart continued to release albums on his own and make solo appearances, playing guitar and singing new material. Several of the songs he wrote for Hüsker Dü were covered by other groups, including Green Day and the Foo Fighters.

He released his final solo album, "The Argument," in 2013, a musical mash-up of John Milton's "Paradise Lost" and the ideas of novelist William S. Burroughs, who was an acquaintance of Mr. Hart's.

Mr. Hart's last public performance was July 1 at a club in Minneapolis, where a surprise show was staged for him as a tribute.

Information on survivors was not available.