Grammy award winning percussionist Mickey Hart is best known for his nearly five decades as an integral part of an extraordinary expedition into the soul and spirit of music, disguised as the rock band The Grateful Dead. As half of the percussion tandem known as the Rhythm Devils, Mickey and Bill Kreutzmann transcended the conventions of rock drumming. Their extended polyrhythmic excursions were highlights of Grateful Dead shows, introducing the band's audience to an ever-growing arsenal of percussion instruments from around the world. Exposure to these exotic sounds fueled Mickey's desire to learn about the various cultures that produced them.
His study of the world's music led Mickey to many great teachers and collaborators, including his musical partners Zakir Hussain, Babatunde Olatunji, and Airto Moreira, with whom he worked on many projects including the band Planet Drum. Planet Drum's self-titled album hit #1 on the Billboard World Music Chart, remaining there for 26 weeks and receiving the Grammy for Best World Music Album in 1991. Hart’s Global Drum Project with Zakir Hussain, Sikiru Adepoju, and Giovanni Hidalgo in 2007 also took home the Grammy for Best Contemporary World Music Album.
Hart's visionary body of work combines music, science, and the visual arts. He has written books on the history and traditions of drumming and the spirit of percussion. Hart has spoken extensively on the subject of music as medicine and the function of rhythm in health. Long a social activist, Hart appeared in August 1991 before the U.S. Senate Committee on Aging, speaking on the healing value of drumming and rhythm on afflictions associated with aging. With the help of Dr. Adam Gazzaley and UCSF, Hart is unlocking the rhythmic potential of the mind. "It all comes down to vibration and rhythm," Hart says of his collaboration with Dr. Gazzaley. "This is about breaking the rhythm code. Once we know what rhythm truly does, we'll be able to control it, use it medicinally for diagnostics, and for general health purposes.” Mickey also currently serves on the board of "Music and the Brain" at the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function at Beth Abraham Hospital.
His most recent musical releases, Superorganism, and Mysterium Tremendum, find Mickey utilizing a new sound processing technology called sonification, inwhich he has taken raw data and translated it into sound. Everything has a vibratory and rhythmic fingerprint, a pulsing matrix of frequencies we experience as color, sound, matter, molecules, galaxies, states of consciousness. With Mysterium Tremendum, Hart created music using source sounds of the cosmos and on Superorganism, the source sounds of his brain. “These sounds are noise— harsh, strange—and it is only after dancing with their essence face to face that music can be created."
On October 11, 2011, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings released the 'Mickey Hart Collection' to preserve and further the Grateful Dead percussionist's endeavor to cross borders and expand musical horizons. The Mickey Hart Collection begins with 25 albums drawn from 'The World,' a series Hart produced that incorporated his solo projects, his productions of other artists' recordings, and re-releases of out-of-print titles. Hart also serves on the Board of Advisors at Folkways.
Mickey's experiences have paved the way for unique opportunities beyond the music industry. He composed a major drum production performed by an assembly of 100 percussionists for the opening ceremony of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. Mickey has composed scores, soundtracks and themes for a number of award-winning films and television shows including Apocalypse Now, Gang Related, Hearts of Darkness, One from the Heart, The Twilight Zone, the 1987 score to The America's Cup: The Walter Cronkite Report, and most recently the Volcano installation at the Mirage Hotel and “Glacia” a massive ice sculpture at the City Center, both in Las Vegas.
Mickey has written four books documenting his lifelong fascination with the history and mythology of music. These include Drumming at the Edge of Magic, Planet Drum, Spirit into Sound, and his most recent book, for National Geographic, Songcatchers.
In 1991, Hart founded Rhythm For Life and produced a 2000 person drum circle. In the Fall of 2004, broke the Guinness World Record: Largest Drum Ensemble for his 5000 person drum circle.
In 1999, Mickey was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress where he headed the sub-committee on the digitization and preservation of the Center's vast collections of the world’s music. He has since received the Living Legend Award from that esteemed institution for “enriching our national heritage.” Hart was instrumental in the creation of the legislation that resulted in the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000.
The Grateful Dead was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 and in 2007 along with the other members of the Grateful Dead, Mickey received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award. Other honors include:Induction into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame (2009), Surround Music Awards Best Multi-track Reissue for Grateful Dead American Beauty (2002), Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters work in advancing the preservation of aural archives (2002.)