Mickey Hart (born Michael Steven Hartman; September 11, 1943) is an American percussionist and musicologist. He is best known as one of the two drummers of the rock band the Grateful Dead. He was a member of the Grateful Dead from September 1967 to February 1971, and from October 1974 to August 1995. He and fellow Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann earned the nickname: the rhythm devils. Mickey Hart (in background, playing drums) and Bob Weir (playing guitar) performing at the Mid-Atlantic Inaugural Ball during the Obama Inaugural, January 20, 2009.Before joining the Grateful Dead, Mickey Hart and his father, Leonard Hart, a champion rudimental drummer, owned and operated Hart Music, selling drums and musical instruments in San Carlos, California.
Hart joined the Grateful Dead in September 1967, and left in February 1971. During his sabbatical, in 1972, he recorded the album Rolling Thunder. He returned to the Dead in 1974, and remained with the group until their official dissolution in 1995. Collaboration with the remaining members of the Grateful Dead continues, under the band name The Dead. Alongside his work with the Grateful Dead, Mickey Hart has flourished as a solo artist, percussionist, and the author of several books. In these endeavors he has pursued a lifelong interest in ethnomusicology and in world music. His travels and his interest in all things percussion-related led him to collect percussion instruments, and to collaborate with percussion masters the world over.
Hart became interested in percussion as a grade-school student. Nigerian drummer Babatunde Olatunji performed at schools around the country in the late 1950s and had the students try out the drums. Hart had been one of those students and he never forgot the experience. Olatunji later taught Hart and collaborated with Hart and the Grateful Dead on a regular basis. Hart was influential in recording global musical traditions on the verge of possible extinction, working with archivists and ethnomusicologists at both the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, and the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Smithsonian Institution. He is on the Board of Trustees of the American Folklife Center and has been a spokesperson for the Save Our Sounds audio preservation initiative. He also serves on the Library of Congress National Recorded Sound Preservation Board and is known for reissues and other recordings with historical and cultural value.
In 1991, Hart produced the album Planet Drum, which remained at #1 on the Billboard World Music Chart for 26 weeks, and received the first ever Grammy Award for Best World Music Album. Mickey Hart has written books on the history and traditions of drumming throughout history. His solo recordings (featuring a variety of guest musicians) are percussive of course, but also verge on New Age music categorically. His enthusiasm for world music traditions and preservation and collaborative efforts is comparable to that of guitarist Ry Cooder.
In 2000, Mickey Hart became a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to seek to establish new knowledge and develop more effective therapies which awaken, stimulate and heal through the extraordinary power of music continuing his investigation into the connection between healing and rhythm, and the neural basis of rhythm. In 2003, he was honored with the organization Music Has Power Award, recognizing his advocacy and continuous commitment to raising public awareness of the positive effect of music.Hart was also a judge for the 3rd annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers. After the death of Jerry Garcia and the consequent dissolution of the Grateful Dead in 1995, Hart continued to play music with various groups including members of the GratefulDead. In the 1996 Furthur Festival, Mickey Hart's Mystery Box played, as did Bob Weir's band Ratdog.
In 2005, Hart and the members of the band Particle joined to create the Hydra Project.During 2006, Hart teamed up with fellow Grateful Dead bandmate Bill Kreutzmann, Phish bassist Mike Gordon and former The Other Ones lead guitarist Steve Kimock, to form the Rhythm Devils, a nickname that refers to Hart and Kreutzmann's legendary drum solos and improvisation. The band features songs from their respective repertoires as well as new songs written by Jerry Garcia's songwriting companion Robert Hunter. The Rhythm Devils announced their first tour in 2006, which ended at the popular Vegoose festival in Las Vegas, Nevada over the Halloween weekend. In June and July 2008, Hart led the Mickey Hart Band on a U.S. concert tour. The band consists of Hart, Steve Kimock on guitar and pedal steel guitar, George Porter, Jr. on bass, Kyle Hollingsworth on keyboards, Sikiru Adepoju on talking drum, Walfredo Reyes, Jr. on drums, and Jen Durkin on vocals.
In 2009, Hart has teamed up with Nobel Laureate in physics George Smoot and the Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics to use patterns found naturally in the cosmos as the basis for a multimedia concert entitled Rhythms of the Universe. The 30 minute opus includes images from the Hubble Space Telescope and rhythms derived from the cosmic background radiation, supernovae, quasars, and many other astrophysical phenomena. The work premiered at the conference Cosmology on the Beach in Playa de Carmen in January 2010.