Born in Brooklyn on September 11, 1943, Mickey Hart soon made the move to California with his family. While growing up in San Carlos, on the San Francisco peninsula, Hart helped out in his father’s percussion store on occasion. This, combined with a chance encounter with a world-famous percussionist, fueled Hart’s love for the drums. While attending grade school, Hart and the other children were treated to a special performance by famed Nigerian drummer Babatunde Olatunji. As was the norm for many of Olatunji’s school performances, the drummer allowed the children to come to the stage and try out the drums. Hart was one of the kids that took Olatunji up on his offer, and he was never the same again.
Hart joined the Grateful Dead in September of 1967, while in his mid-twenties. The Dead had spent the past couple of years gaining a steady following in the Bay Area, and by the time Hart joined up were considered, along with Jefferson Airplane, hometown heroes. Hart, along with fellow drummer Bill Kreutzmann, formed a unique drumming duo within the band. While Kreutzmann kept the rhythm moving with rolling, jazz-inspired beats, Hart would opt to throw in odd fills, or play various percussion instruments (bongos, congas, etc.) to heighten the sound — a testament to his never-ending love for African rhythms coupled with jazz and marching techniques.
In 1971 Hart left the Grateful Dead to focus on solo material, but rejoined the band permanently in 1974 until their break-up in 1995 after the death of frontman Jerry Garcia. Since then Hart has toured with the remaining members of the band under the names The Other Ones and The Dead. Hart has also written numerous best-selling books on drumming, won the first-ever Best World Music Album Grammy Award in 1991 for his album Planet Drum, which was also noted for having a remained at the #1 spot on the Billboard chart for 26 straight weeks.