There’s more to Mickey Hart than just keeping the rhythm, as he’s best known for doing over 30-plus years in The Grateful Dead alongside fellow drummer Bill Kreutzmann.
The percussion savant is also engaged in academic and medical projects, preserving fragile music and minds.
As a musicologist and archivist, he’s worked for the Smithsonian and Library of Congress to digitize their vast collections of recordings dating back to 1890 — some of which represent cultures in danger of extinction.
“It’s kind of like repatriating the music through the cultures it was ripped away from — by allowing access to the music,” Hart says.
And as a board member of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function, he’s coordinating efforts to investigate music’s healing powers.
“It’s the neurology of it: How does it affect the brain?” Hart says. “That’s the most exciting frontier in music these days. Music is preventative medicine for Alzheimer’s, dementia, the motor-impaired. This is what music will be used for this century, besides entertainment.”
It’s all of a whole for Hart, who hears and works with music everywhere.
“I love music,” Hart says. “I love the vibratory world. I listen to it every day. It’s kind of a lifestyle for me as opposed to an entertainment.”
Hart still finds time to drum, though. In recent years he re-teamed with Kreutzmann to form the Rhythm Devils project, using a moniker they were given while in the Dead. A recent self-titled DVD showcasing their 2006 tour proves their earthy, loose-limbed grooves are still wholly intact. This summer’s tour features Walfredo Reyes Jr. in place of Kreutzmann and Meters bassist George Porter Jr. replacing Mike Gordon.
Hart has always tried to surround himself with players that have his sensibilities.
“It’s about the conversation you have with people — whether it be musical or art or life,” he says. “It seems like you’d want to spend your life at an optimum performance level.”