Mickey Hart Biography

Drummer (1943–)
For close to 30 years, drummer Mickey Hart paired with Bill Kreutzmann to form the rhythm section for the iconic rock 'n' roll band the Grateful Dead.


Mickey Hart was born September 11, 1943 in Brooklyn, New York. In 1967, he joined the Grateful Dead as its second drummer. In 1971, he left the band and released his first solo album, rejoining the group in 1975. In 1995, Jerry Garcia died and the group disbanded. Hart continued to do solo work, occasionally performing with his former bandmates. In recent years, he has played with the Mickey Hart Band.

Early Life

On September 11, 1943, in Brooklyn, New York, Michael Steven Hartman, best known as Mickey Hart, was welcomed into the world by his mother, Leah. Mickey’s father, a drummer named Lenny, had left the family before Mickey was born. Mickey was raised solely by his mother, also a drummer, but seemed to inherit musical talent from both of his parents.

When Hart was a teenager, he dropped out of Lawrence High School to join the U.S. Air Force's drum and bugle corps. While stationed in California, Mickey finally met his estranged father, but they soon lost touch. Hart was next stationed in Spain, where he studied judo and learned rhythmical breathing techniques that he would use to enhance his drumming throughout his musical career.

Musical Career

In 1965, after Hart was discharged from the Air Force, he went back to New York to look for work as a studio session drummer. Not long after, Hart received a letter from his father, inviting him to work in Lenny's drum shop. During his short stint working at his father's drum shop, Hart met Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann at a nightclub called the Matrix, and was asked to sit in with the band. In 1967, Hart joined the band as its second drummer. A rock band with two drummers was practically unheard of at the time. Hart and Kreutzmann's innovative two-drum performances with the Dead in the late 1960s and early 1970s earned the duo the nickname "Rhythm Devils."

In 1971, Hart left the Grateful Dead and released his first solo album, Rolling Thunder, the following year. Two years later, he teamed up with the Dead again, for a performance at Winterland in San Francisco. After recording on the Grateful Dead's album, Blues for Allah, in 1975, Hart decided to rejoin the band for good.

While drumming for the Grateful Dead, Hart continued to pursue his own musical projects. In 1976 the Diga Rhythm Band, an experimental world-beat fusion band that Hart had organized, released its first album, Diga.

From 1979 to 1980, Hart contributed to two albums for the soundtrack of Francis Ford Coppola's hit film, Apocalypse Now. In 1983, Hart started putting out global fusion albums under the title The World, including a reissue of a Diga Rhythm Band album he had produced earlier. He developed such a fascination with world music that he began recording all over the globe. In line with this interest, Hart teamed up with the Library of Congress to form the "Endangered Music Project," which preserves recordings of traditional music from all over the world. In 1989, however, Hart released an album inspired by events closer to home: Music to Be Born By was spurred by the rhythm of his unborn son's heartbeat.

In 1990, Hart published his first book, Drumming at the Edge of Magic. Like all of his writing since, the book focused on Hart's first passion, music. In 1995, when the Grateful Dead's founding member, Jerry Garcia, died, the group disbanded. Hart continued to tour and record solo, but also occasionally perform with some of the Dead's former members under the name The Other Ones.

Hart's many musical honors include a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (2007), and an induction into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 2009. In recent years, he has debuted new songs with the Mickey Hart Band.

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