Birth Name: Michael Steven Hartman
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, USA
September 11, 1943 – present
Years Active: 1960s – present
Mickey Hart is an influential and award-winning percussionist and musicologist. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 as a member of the legendary Grateful Dead. Hart’s three decades with the group spanned from the 1960s into the 1990s and included numerous albums and tours. He has also led his own musical projects as a bandleader and composer since the early 1970s. Additionally, Hart has authored several books, explored and promoted the benefits of music therapy and brain research, led in the development of digital music technology, and championed the performance and recording of music from around the world.
Born in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, Hart was raised by his mother and her family in Brooklyn and Long Island. Both of his parents were drummers with an expertise in rudimental technique that had a direct connection to military bands. Inspired by his family history, he started learning the basics of drumming around age 10. Intent on furthering his music education and impressed by the reputation of its bands, Hart enlisted in the United States Air Force in the early 1960s and would play in its illustrious Airmen of Note band. His military service lasted nearly four years, and ended when he was stationed in California.
Residing in San Francisco, Hart attended a Count Basie show at The Fillmore music venue in 1967 and met Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann. Hart accepted an invitation from Kreutzmann to jam with the Grateful Dead during one of their concerts a few months later and Hart soon joined the band. Aside from a few years in the 1970s, Hart was a member of the group from 1967 until their dissolution in 1995, after bandmate Jerry Garcia’s death. The group’s live concerts and frequent touring led to the development of an entire music subculture. Their shows were rooted in improvisatory ensemble performance and significantly influenced multiple styles of American popular music.
On sabbatical from the Grateful Dead in the early 1970s, Hart started his solo career when he released his first album, Rolling Thunder, in 1972. He has released over a dozen solo and collaborative albums since then and his work has been both commercially successful and critically acclaimed. With much of Hart’s solo work being an eclectic and inclusive blending of music from around the world, his 1991 album, Planet Drum, was the first album to win the Grammy Award for Best World Music Album. His 2007 collaboration album, Global Drum Project, with percussionists Zakir Hussain, Sikiru Adepoju, and Giovanni Hidalgo won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Music Album.
With other surviving members of the Grateful Dead, Hart formed Dead & Company in 2015. The band also includes singer and guitarist John Mayer, bassist Oteil Burbridge, and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti. The group tours regularly and performs sets of Grateful Dead songs. Their concerts have been immensely successful and demonstrate the enduring legacy of the music Mickey Hart helped create.