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Mickey Hart: Traveling to the low end of the cosmos in a world that’s lost its groove

Mickey Hart.
Jay Blakesberg
Jay Blakesberg
Mickey Hart.

To hear the fully produced piece, including samples of the Planet Drum and Dead and Company tracks referred to in the text below, hit the play button above.

This is Josh Landes and you’re listening up WAMC. Coming up this hour, a special conversation with percussionist Mickey Hart, who has returned to his Planet Drum project for its first new album in years.

Hart, of course, has also spent nearly 60 years with the Grateful Dead and its various offshoots:

“Rhythm brings people together. Everybody knows about rhythm, melody and harmony. They're not great. But every culture can share rhythm. Every culture on the planet has every nation, every culture has rhythms to it.”

We’ll talk with Mickey Hart about the Dead, Planet Drum, and much more in this special WAMC conversation.

2022 is proving to be a landmark year in the long, incomparable career of Mickey Hart. Since joining the Grateful Dead in 1967, the 78-year-old percussionist has explored ethnomusicology, astrophysics, the connection between music and neurology, archiving folk music for the federal government, authoring books on drumming, and more. This year, his long-running international percussion ensemble with tabla master Zakir Hussain, Planet Drum, just released its first record in years after a rare live performance in Stanford, California this spring. Reviewers have described “In The Groove” as a “hypnotic trance-like exploration of music at its most primal” and “an atmospheric sonic experience that is both uniquely organic and electronic.”

Hart also just wrapped up a 19-date summer tour with Dead & Company. It’s the most recent incarnation of the Grateful Dead, the cult Californian psychedelic rock band that ended a 30-year run in 1995 with the death of singer, songwriter, and guitarist Jerry Garcia.

Launched in 2015 with newcomers John Mayer, Oteil Burbridge, and Jeff Chimenti joining Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, and Bob Weir, Dead & Company continues the Grateful Dead’s legacy of complex, conversational improvisation and lysergic exploration.

A staple of the live Dead experience continues to be the second set’s Drums/Space sequence, a percussion driven, free form improvisation led by Hart and Kreutzmann. The nightly segment climaxes with Hart playing the Beam – a custom-built instrument strung with bass piano strings capable of producing deep, undulating frequencies that can fill even the cavernous space of huge venues like Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

Through quickly quashed rumors of a breakup, last-minute substitutions, medical emergencies, and ever-present summer rainstorms, Dead & Company’s summer tour ended with a stellar two-night stand at Citi Field in Queens, New York in mid-July. Before Hart shares his tour report with WAMC, here’s a taste of one of the jaunt’s musical highlights- an exhilarating run through a Grateful Dead classic that dates back to the band’s earliest years- “St. Stephen” at Gillette Stadium on July 2nd.

HART: It was very exciting. We went to new places and I had a great time. And it was filled with drama, as most tours are. You have to work your way through all of that to come out the other end looking good. It was strenuous. It was fun.

WAMC: Now, you were faced with a unique challenge where your stalwart companion Bill Kreutzmann again took sort of a mid-tour break to heal up over the course of the journey, and he had Jay Lane come to fill in. What was it like trading off drummers like that?

[laughs] It was interesting. You know, they have different styles. Jay is very straightforward, and he keeps a great groove. And he's different than Kreutzmann, for sure. Bill has a whole loping kind of a feeling, whereas Jay is a straight-ahead kind of feeling. Also good, different. So he fit in real easy, he knows the material. So, there was only a few bumps in the in the road and he watched me really closely, and we played together to make one big rhythm machine. So yeah, I enjoyed it. But, you know, always hoping that Bill gets better and will join us one day, and he did. So, in the end, you know, it worked out.

Now, this year, the Drums/Space portion of the show seemed to be the most highly produced and exciting yet. The visuals were incredible. There were some wonderful visual nods to Planet Drum, of course. Tell us about that. When you go into the summer tours, what kind of conversations are happening backstage about what you want Drums/Space to look like?

Well, visually is one thing. Sonically is another. So, in preparation for it, both were carefully curated in some ways, the images and the MIDI control of the skeletons and all that stuff. That took work. I had to also make the sequences and make everything really, you know, sound designed it going into it, because it's a place of complete- It’s not rehearsed, it’s jammed, as they say, it's made up. So, it's real-time, made-up kind of music, in the moment kind of music. But you have to prepare the table in order to make this kind of music that cool. You know, there's a great preparation that goes into it. And I do that, and it’s a joy for me, I just love it. Because in the end, you know, it's just really a high point in the concert.

This year, we saw you what seemed like plucking sounds out of the air at a certain point on tour during Drums/Space. Tell us about that- There's always a magical element of drum space, and you seem to literally be conjuring things out of nothingness this time around.

Well, I’m into the Webb Telescope, the new telescope that’s seeing deeper and deeper into space, and the images that it brings back. And I've always been interested in that, and I've sonified a lot of, some of the universe, taking the radiation coming from the stars and the planets and sonifying them, the science is called. Sonifying, turning light, radiation into sound. And so that's what I was doing there. And I was reaching up into the heavens, and kind of acknowledging the universe in that way, by just taking a little thing out of space, pulling it down to Earth, and Earth going up to space as well so there was a conversation that was going on. So that's what that meant. I never spoke about it or anything, but that's what I was doing.

Now, you've talked a lot about music as medicine and music as healing. Can you explain to people, when they’re experiencing the full force of the Beam, when the entire stadium is vibrating with this incredible spread of frequencies, what is actually happening to our bodies and our ears and our minds?

It's all about neurologic function. That's what music is about. Your beam goes to places where other instruments cannot go. It goes down to 15 cycles. So, 15 cycles is really low. Now that low end vibration just rattles your whole body and it takes you into a virtual space that you can't achieve in music. This is the drone, and the drone is a thing unto itself. And it's a trance thing, and it's also where you go down and just zero out. You're zeroing the slate out, and then we begin again and bring it back to music. But at the lowest common denominator, you feel something really special. And it's more vibratory than it is sonically, than sonics in certain ways, because it's right there at the edge where you don't hear but you feel. A few more cycles down and you wouldn't be able to hear it, you just would be able to feel it. It's right at that place where sound turns into feeling, and feeling is sound as well down there. It's a place that no one goes to, which is a rich, rich environment for people to meditate to and to clean the slate and to feel something you've never felt before. It feels- I don’t know, it’s spiritual, I guess, is the place that I would, I would call it spiritual in a way, very much so. Because it's a meditation in sound, sonic wonder, I think. And so do other people. No one goes down there, and it's just a wonderful place. I go down there a lot here in the studio in my own practice. It's something to get high to. That's what happens when you lay down that low D down there, because the cosmic low end of the universe is a B-flat, 52 octaves below middle C. The Beam is a Pythagorean monochord, is really what it is. It goes down to those places where other instruments would dare not go.

Here’s Mickey Hart playing the Beam during Drums/Space at Dead and Company’s July 7th performance at the Xfinity Theatre in Hartford, Connecticut.

So this summer we also heard the band revisit songs like “Sing Me Back Home,” which I believe you hadn't played in at least 50 years with the band proper. What was it like revisiting some of these songs from the early days of the Dead?

Well, it was great. You know, I mean, it's just like riding a bicycle. We play some of the songs so many times that you don't have to think much, you have to feel and just let yourself go. So there's little thinking involved in this kind of stuff. It's more like muscle memory. You know, once we've played- We played songs hundreds and hundreds of times in the old days, and then let them go for 15, 20 years, and then play them again like they were fresh. So it's kind of a fresh, a freshener of the old songs. And you know, I love that kind of stuff. And the new guys- You know, new guys. [laughs] Well, they're not actually new, Jeff and Oteil and John I like to look on their faces as they're playing the songs just to see the thrill in their faces. And we like it too. I mean, I love it.

Here’s Dead and Company performing Merle Haggard’s “Sing Me Back Home” at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in Bethel, New York on July 1st. When the band debuted its take on the country classic earlier this year, it was Hart’s first time playing it with the Dead since 1971.

Now, speaking of long running experiences, I had the pleasure of speaking with Zakir Hussain earlier this year, and he talked about your relationship as being committed to this search for a rhythm at the core of existence, and the shared ethos of ‘it's the rhythm, stupid.’ Tell me about that, you know, you and Zakir are obviously appearing on the new Planet Drum record together, and you've played together this year- Tell me about that search that Zakir was referring to.

Okay, what he was referring to was, in the beginning, there was noise, and noise, it begat rhythm, and rhythm begat everything else. 13.8 billion years ago, the blank page of the universe exploded, and creating stars, the planets, the sun, the moon, the Earth, and us. So, this vibratory universe is where we came from. We are made of vibrations, we are embedded in a vibratory universe, we are multi-dimensional rhythm machines, really, at play in the universe of rhythm. So now we're able to go back- Well, almost to the Big Bang, 13.8 billion years ago, but we go 400,000 light years this side is as close as we've gotten to the original downbeat, beat one, the beginning of time and space. So, I'm now able to take those kinds of sounds and sonify them. We call it sonifying, taking the light, the radiation, which, you can’t hear sound in a vacuum. So, when a star explodes or there’s some kind of activity up there, the sound separates from the light. The light comes through, the sound can’t travel in space. So we take that light, turn it into sound, and then use that sound in our compositions. That's what he's referring to, is to find the primal, the first beat, you know, the downbeat. And so we keep looking deeper and deeper and deeper. And that's what the Webb is all about. That's the Webb Telescope. And so we take readings from all these radio telescopes, they're called, that gathered these light waves, and they turn those light waves, change their form into sound, and use them as a musical instrument, because the whole universe is a musical instrument, everything vibrates. So the whole universe, the whole of this enchilada that we call life is really created in the heavens. Like Carl Sagan would say, the carbon in your cheesecake is probably made from a star that exploded a few billion light years before because we are that, and that is us. You know, most people have no idea that that's really what we're made of, but we're made of things that have happened in the cosmos. So I've always been looking for that, those elements in the cosmos that are vital, and then I can have fun with.

With all of that context with playing the universe as an instrument, tell me about the new planet drum record- how does that contribute to this ongoing quest and this ongoing playing of the universal instrument?

Well, it’s the rhythm stupid. [laughs] And that's why why I play and that's what I look for. Everything in the universe has a vibratory content. It has two things: It has light, and it has a sound, you just have to change its form. So all of these rhythms, they unite in some kind of a powerful trance inducing, consciousness raising experience. And so that's what Planet Drum is all about, different cultures playing together in rhythm to create something larger, and something more meaningful, perhaps. Hopefully, that's what people will get out of this new recording. Obviously, that's what Planet Drum’s mission was. It's not just a band playing music, it's a quest to find the code, crack the rhythmic code of the universe. Planet Drum brings it down to dance music this time. We want people with dance. This one has all of those elements. It has the clave, a which is the powerful Latin rhythm that everything revolves around. Clave is called the key to Latin music. It also has the backbeat, American, good old bass drum and snare drum, and amongst all that is this filigree, this incredible, these performances by Zakir Hussain, Sikiru Adepoju, and of course, the great Giovanni Hidalgo. These are the masters. It's very humbling to play with them, and very gratifying. And after I play with them, I'm really high. So that's what this is all about. It's about all of these cultures playing together to create something much larger.

Here’s “King Clave,” the opening track of the new Planet Drum record “In The Groove.”

Mickey, you've always been something of a techno-utopian in the sense that you really have found all of these advances in technology as means to further this mission around the search for rhythm and the search to understand existence. We live in pretty dark, chaotic times. What's your general worldview right now? In the face of all these things that are so exciting to you, it's also a struggle for a lot of folks out on the street. What are your thoughts on sort of an outlook right now for world history?

Well, that's a good question. and the worlds out of rhythm. It’s lost its groove. This is an example of how it could be. All cultures combined, forming some kind of unity and understanding. And this is at the very core – a good question – at very core of it all. This band played the opening of the United Nations, not physically, but on the walls and inside it and everything. There was a recorded performance of it, just to show the whole General Assembly what rhythm could really do. Rhythm brings people together. Everybody knows about rhythm. Not melody and harmony, they don’t agree. But every culture can share rhythm. Every culture on the planet has, every nation, every culture has rhythms to it. Also melody sometimes, and harmonies, but rhythm is the key to it all. So, hearing good and feeling good rhythm- There's something about empathy in it. There's joy in it. It's an example of how it could be. They got Democrats, right, you got leftists, Republicans, left, right. You know, you’ve got all of this struggle that's going on and the country has lost and the world has lost its groove. And rhythm is the only way to put it back. I could see the UN playing together. The Democrats and Republicans with drums in their hands would be a good sight. I've never, you know, had a bad thing to say about anybody who played good rhythm with me. So that's how I think of it all. It's an example of different cultures playing together in unity and harmony and melody. And that's what music does. It involves people in life. That's what music’s primary power is, the focus. It involves people in life. So, that's where I go with all my recordings. If it doesn't realize that feeling, then it’s not for me. So, if it's not trance inducing or consciousness raising a better world, I don't mess with it.

Now, there were a couple of Planet Drum shows scheduled for this fall. They've been delayed for the time being. Any word on that? Will we be seeing Planet Drum out on the East Coast anytime soon?

Yeah, there’s word on that. I just was so tired after this tour. You know, it was really a long tour. Played hard, put away wet. And so I just didn't feel like I had that kind of energy to go and play with Planet Drum. But we're letting the CD go out, letting the music permeate, and then we're going to play. We don't know exactly when we're going to play, but we're going to play. Maybe in the beginning of the year, the end of the year. Actually, Zakir just got back from Europe, so I haven't even talked to him yet. And I just got back, so we've been out playing the world, and so we'll talk about and decide when we're going out, but we’re definitely are going to go out.

So, I'm so interested- you know, you do these long, grueling tours. What is the day-to-day life like for you when you're on the road of Dead & Company?

Well, I wake up in the morning to start with. [laughs] And I have my coffee just like everybody else. And I stretch all the time. I'm always on the ground. I have a ball and a mat. So I immediately hit the ground, stretch, stretch, stretch, and then exercise, do my TRX and so forth, and eventually wind up at the show for my drum checks. And that's where my day starts musically, but I prepare for it all day starting right from the beginning. And then after a show, I'll have my dinner. Can’t eat before I play, it’s too much to digest and to play, the energy is just not there. And then after I have my dinner, I go to sleep, I go to my bunk, or an airplane, whatever it is that’s going get to the next place. We have our own plane, we have our own buses. So we're mobile. We have great personnel that gets us there and back. Danny Monzo is my personal guide, and he gets me every place and make sure I'm safe and that I don't get COVID anybody that I don't want to see and so forth. We stay in our bubble. You know, everybody wears a mask. We're in a bubble, just like any other bubble, so no one contracts these viruses. So that's a big part of the touring, is that we don't get sick. Get sick, we have to cancel tour. Bad, bad. And then we repeat this over and over and over until the tour is over. And we come back and we come back played hard, put away wet. And that just about says it. And then I come home and I walk around like a zombie for about four or five days, pretty much, until my whole body and mind comes back home. But I'm in the studio immediately. First day back. I go into the studio and try to come back home and stay busy all the time and don't let any grass grow under, as they say. So that's the short of the long of it. [laughs]

In the second half of our special WAMC interview with Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart, we’ll hear about his current psychedelic regimen, the science project he’s working on, and why the train is a central metaphor in both the Dead’s canon as well as American music at large. You’re listening to WAMC.

Welcome back to WAMC’s special interview with legendary percussionist Mickey Hart. I’m Josh Landes. We just heard some of “Phil Da Glass,” a track from “In The Groove”- the first release in years from Hart’s international percussion ensemble Planet Drum. In the second half our conversation, Hart talks about where he’s at in his journey with psychedelics, what it’s like to watch John Mayer take on the Dead songbook, and the future of Dead & Company. First, let’s sample another taste of Drums/Space from Dead & Company’s summer tour. In this performance from July 16th at Citi Field in Queens, New York, Hart and longtime drumming partner Bill Kreutzmann reach deep into the cosmos to produce a wild, improvised percussive soundscape for an audience of thousands.

So Mickey, psychedelics are sort of deeply tied to the story of the Grateful Dead. I'm interested- At this point in your career, what kind of role do psychedelics play in your creativity in 2022?

I use mushrooms. I love mescaline to play on. That's my drug of choice when I play. I'm not smoking when I play this tour, but after it, right after the show stops, I hit a nice, nice smoke, some good cannabis, and that makes me feel really good. I'll reflect on the show, I'll write. I write a lot. After the show, I’m immediately down on the ground with my ball, my mat, just coming down and vibrating. Remember, it’s three hours and 20 minutes of auditory driving, which you have to come down from. You can't you just can't stay there for forever. And so everything just kind of comes home, and you go to sleep and on to the next.

In the past, you've alluded to some of your more scientific projects. I know in your 60 Minutes interview a few years back, you talked about exploring the minds of those experiencing neurological degradation to see what impact music can play on their minds. Any science projects that you're cooking up these days, Mickey?

I'm working with Adam Gazzaley from [University of California San Francisco] on how music affects the brain and what parts of the brain turn on when you do certain rhythms, certain volumes, and so forth, trying to find the keys to the mystery of rhythm and how it can be used in prognosis for Parkinson's or Alzheimer's or all of these diseases that cut the neural networks. That's what they all do, they just break the chain. And music somehow puts these things back together enough for you to become conscious in some way, shape, or form. So we study that. That's one of my main interests. And now I'm working with another spatial entity called Dolby Atmos. And this is a super surround. Like, it’s surround, but there's speakers above your head so you get vertical movement. And not only just like 5.1, like, just from the quadrants and so forth. This you can place a sound in any place- Like, two and a half feet from your left eye, and you can grab it right there. It, like, hangs in space. And so this is all what I'm doing now. Now I'm in multi-channel Atmos. So, after this it’s really hard to listen to stereo, as a matter of a fact. I don't listen to stereo anymore. Stereo is like mono used to be. I'm old enough to remember when mono turned stereo, way back then. There were records hyping stereo. They were mostly around racetracks and buses and cutting your hair behind your back. So those were the sound effect records that brought stereo into it. Now it's much more sophisticated, whereas music is now being developed that fits into this Atmos scenario spatial quality. It's the sonic space of the future. But it's starting to happen now. The Beatles have put one of their records in, I’ll be doing this record, there are certain records now that are available, recordings available, that are in Atmos, and TV and movies are being made, sonically, in Atmos. So, it's the new sonic landscape, or soundscape is a better word. It's the new soundscape.

Mickey, I have to ask- can we anticipate any more Dead & Company later this year or next year?

We haven't talked about it all as a matter of fact. To be honest with you, we just were glad to make it through this tour with all the drama going on, and we were smiling at the end. Everybody was loving each other, and that's a good sign for the future. [laughs] So that's about all I really know. I certainly know that we're road dogs and we love to play. And you can't play in the studio forever. So yeah, we're a live act, so I assume that we're going to continue in our profession. But we haven't talked about it yet.

What's it been like to see Bobby sort of step up to take over a bigger mantle on stage? Over the last seven years, it really seems like he's come into that more comfortably than maybe has at any other point in his career.

Oh, Bob is in shape. He's good. You know, he's healthy. Head’s in a good space, works out every day, seemingly living a happy life. And he loves to play. He's progressing, you know. He's not the guy that he was seven years ago. And yes, he's feeling more comfortable on the stage and he's feeling John now more, and John's feeling him more. It takes a long time to play, you know, out of your head in some other space. You just can't necessarily just the first time. Sometimes it happens, but oftentimes, it takes a while for it to, after you get, that thrill goes, then you have to do it every night. And so Bob and John have a conversation now that is really more powerful than it was seven years ago, because John is learning the songs really well and Bob is loosening up and playing with John just like Bob played with Jerry. It's a different relationship. But it's a relationship. They are hearing each other and they're having a constant conversation. And so Billy and I, we're having that conversation between ourselves, then we're in the conversation with them as well, as well as with Oteil, as well as with Jeff. So that makes band head. You know, we're groupists. We love to group. When that happens, it’s magic. Music magic is where it's at. If we don't hit that place, then it's not worth playing. For me. It's just beating stuff up unless you go there. So that's how I feel about it.

Here’s Dead & Company performing Grateful Dead ballad “Standing On The Moon” at Citi Field on July 15th. During the band’s original run, the song was sung by Garcia. In Dead & Company, it’s now Weir – who spent years in the shadow of his iconic bandmate – who delivers Robert Hunter’s lyrics.

You've managed to live so many wild sonic dreams. What else do you dream about these days? I mean, you're literally sonifying the universe at this point, so some would say maybe you've reached some sort of logical conclusion to that journey. But what other dreams do you have for this kind of work?

Well, there's the health issue always is the most incredible frontier now for rhythm and for music, how can we use music as medicine that is always out there, which we know that it has healing qualities, but it's still a mystery. We don't exactly know how to key it or what it's made up, how it's made up, Sometimes we do. Sometimes we don't. But we know that it works. How? What's the code? What's the key? Well, we have much of the code, but there's more to be learned, and using music to counter diseases and make for a better world- I think that's really always been at the end of the rainbow for me, I guess. You know, how the power of music- Like Marley said, music have plenty power. And he was right. We don't even know how much power it has. So the power of music is, I guess, you know, it's everywhere. You just have to look. The power in the vibratory universe is a better way to put it, because it's more than just music. It's vibration. Like I said, it's the rhythm, stupid. Rhythm is everywhere, in everything. That's except inanimate objects, but anything that lives and moves, it has a sound and has a light, okay? And humans can understand that. We have ears and we have eyes. And that's the big enchilada, I guess, after all is said and done, you know. How deep you can go with knowledge that you share in music or the knowledge of the rhythmic origins of the universe. If there is a God, it's a rhythm. You know, there's not someone up there saying, this happened and this didn't happen. There isn't some guy or gal up there doing that. It's the vibratory universe. That's the science of it all. And I believe in science. It's my religion, if you would. Rhythm is my religion, without insulting to anybody else's belief system. And that's what it's all about, it’s what you believe in. Religion is what you believe in. And so that bluntly, honestly, is where I come from, and not taking away from anybody's belief system because they believe it and they think it's the true. I have science as my guide.

In 2021, Hart and longtime collaborator Zakir Hussain released a project called “Sound Consciousness: Drones for Sonic Bathing.” The 10-part series is designed for meditation and to provide a sonic space for healing, renewal, and spiritual transcendence. Take a deep breath, lie down, and have a listen.

Now, you were raised Jewish, Mickey, and as a Jewish fan of the band, I'm obviously delighted to have you on the team. How does Judaism play into your thinking?

On the team? You mean on the team? [laughs] I like that. You mean the Jewish team, right?

Yeah, the Jewish team.

There’s no Jewish team. [laughs]

So yeah, how does Judaism play into how you look at the world, Mickey?

It doesn't. I was born into a Jewish family. I don't practice Judaism. You hear what I practice. You know who I am and what God I pray to because I do it at night for lots of people, and hopefully that my God speaks to all the other gods. Hey, my God speaks to your God. No, I'm not on the team, as it were.

You got to perform Planet Drum with Bobby [Weir] out at the Frost [Amphitheater] earlier this year. You know, that's prime hunting grounds for the Dead over the last few decades. What did it feel like being back out on the lawn with Bobby at the Frost?

Well, I was looking for all those brain cells that I left there all those years ago. I know they must be around somewhere. And I was asking people perhaps if you'd find my brain cells, will you bring them to the gate, the front gate, and deposit them in this box so I can retrieve them? [laughs] That's what I felt like when I went back to the Frost, of course. You know, we were banned many years ago. We couldn't play the Frost for years. The kids just kept coming over the gate. We couldn't defend it, and we just got too popular for that beautiful place, so we were banned. So, coming back to it, you know, we love the Frost theater. So I just love playing there, I could just- I just sat there for a while, just closed my eyes and remembered some of the wonderful musical moments that we had at the Frost. Yeah, it was fun. It was great. And Bob liked it, I liked it, everybody was- We were just bathed in this kind of glow, if you will, being there.

Here’s a taste of Mickey Hart with Planet Drum live at the Frost Amphitheater in Stanford, California on May 1st, opening for Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros.

One of the most enduring metaphors in the Dead is that of the train, and it occurs to me that there's this sort of beautiful sort of dovetailing of some of these echoes of rhythm in the cosmos with the train itself, which is both a metaphor and this very real sonic experience. And I've talked to guys like Marty Stuart who played with Johnny Cash, and the click and the clack of the train is something that was so rich and powerful in that vein of American music. Can you talk a little bit about the sort of the focal point of the train when it comes up in both American music and in the music of the Dead?

I see, you’re talking about that- Oh, okay. Well, the train symbolizes something in America. It means that you're going down the tracks, you’re coming down, you’re truckin’. And that's the train metaphor. Everybody uses that no matter what the situation is. Good, bad, or- The good, the bad, or the ugly, as it were. You keep on truckin’, and you keep that train, keep it oiled, keep it greased. You keep putting the- You know, that's kind of that kind of a metaphor of trains. And trains are, everybody understands trains. And so trains have been, you know, talked about forever. That's how America opened itself up to its to itself, you know, through the rails. The rails were the first thing that connected the country from the West Coast to the East Coast. And that's part of the metaphor as well. It's America, and you're talking American based music. So the train, America based music, and also the train took the music everywhere, as did the river boats plying the Mississippi, and after 1800. taking all of the music up the Mississippi to Kansas City, New York, Chicago. That's also how music was transported. The musical trade winds, if you will, their seeds were spread using railroads or steamboats. That's what it means to me: Keep on truckin’. That's our version of the train song.

Here’s Dead & Company playing enduring Dead anthem “Truckin’” on July 10th at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Incredible. Mickey, I can't thank you enough for your time today. Thank you so much, sir. I'm a big fan. This was really meaningful. Thank you so much.

You had great questions. Thanks a lot.

Hey, thanks so much, man. Have a good one.

All right. Bye Bye.

Percussionist Mickey Hart, best known for his role in pioneering American psychedelic rock band the Grateful Dead, performs with Dead & Company and just released a new record, “In The Groove,” with his long-running percussion ensemble Planet Drum.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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