Drummer. Air Force drum and bugle corps. Author. GRAMMY®-winner. Research pioneer. These are just a few accomplishment in the prolific career of “Rhythm Devil,” Mickey Hart. Sammy and Mickey go way back, so we thought we’d go back even further and see just how Mickey became the musical guru he is today!
Born on September 11, 1943 in Brooklyn, New York, Mickey was raised by his mother; his father had already left the family by the time Mickey was born. Both his parents were drummers, and his mother arranged for Mickey to follow in their footsteps. As a teenager, Mickey dropped out of Lawrence High School to join the U.S. Air Force’s drum and bugle corps. While stationed in California, he finally met his estranged father, but soon lost touch. He was later stationed in Spain where he studied judo, learning breathing and focused mental techniques that he later applied to his drumming. Upon being discharged from the Air Force in 1965, he returned to New York to find work as a session drummer. He soon received a letter from his father inviting him to work in the drum store he had recently opened. Mickey packed his bags and once again traveled west to California, where a fateful evening would set him on course to join one of the most groundbreaking bands of the era. While working at his father’s store, Mickey met Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann, who invited Mickey to sit in with the band. Afterward, Mickey joined the Dead in 1967 as its second drummer, a move that was unheard of in the rock world at that time. The dynamic established between the two drummers was so impressive, however, that the duo earned the nickname, “Rhythm Devils.”
Mickey left the Grateful Dead in 1971 and released his solo album, Rolling Thunder, the following year. The solo album included many members from the Dead, as well as musicians from the San Francisco Bay area and World Music performers. Just two years later, Mickey teamed up with the Grateful Dead at the Winterland venue in San Francisco and provided percussion the following year on their album Blues For Allah. Mickey was back on board with the band until its dissolution in 1995 after the death of frontman, Jerry Garcia.
Since 1995, Mickey has kept busy with a multitude of projects. He’s continued to release new and inventive music. His album Planet Drum received the Grammy Award for Best World Music Recording in 1992, while his album Global Drum Project took home the Grammy for Best Contemporary World Music Album in 2007. He’s written four books about the history of music, specifically about percussion and its therapeutic qualities. He’s composed music for films like Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness. In 1991, Mickey appeared before the U.S. Senate Committee on Aging where he spoke on behalf of the healing qualities that drumming and rhythm had on afflictions related with aging. In 1999, he was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. As if that wasn’t enough, Mickey has also been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 and in 2007 along with the other members of the Grateful Dead. He also received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. But when he’s not too busy, Mickey has reunited with his fellow remaining Grateful Dead members to perform in The Other Ones, keeping the spirit of the Dead alive well into the 21st Century!
Mickey has quite the body of work, so we had to narrow our list down extensively. Which Mickey Hart songs get your heart pumping? Let us know in the comments below!
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