Mickey Hart's childhood memories of the Jersey Shore inspired him to write a benefit song (HERE) for victims of Hurricane Sandy, and it's coming in a little later than the first wave of benefits for a reason. "I knew that it would need an afterburner. When I saw Bon Jovi, Brian Williams and all those people one one broadcast -- I was affected. Five minutes later, there was the song. It's not Mozart (he laughs) but it's very well intentioned and it's done with emotional content. Also trying to give you a sense of place with the buoy kind of sounds ... it kind of makes you feel like you're..."
At the shore?
"Yeah. It's important because you see the shore is different than any other place. Shore towns, people come to enjoy life and be a community. Take the kids, the family, walk the boardwalk, have a beer. These kinds of place have certain kinds of spiritual sense of place. It's a totem. It's like a place where you go to become human and have fun and do all those things you don't do in the city and at work. I know, I got the hit when I was a kid."
The Jersey Shore and Sandy have faded from the news over the months, a struggle I remember post-Katrina levee fail. "People think it's over. It isn't over," Mickey says of Hurricane Sandy survivors. "This is a time when they need hope, and it's a song of survival and hope."
Much more than the song Jersey Shore is included with your online tip jar donation. There's over two hours of music from the Mickey Hart Band including tracks from Mysterium Tremendum, and a full length recording of the band performing last August at the Stone Pony. By any measure, that's a lot of music from the renowned former drummer of the Grateful Dead. All net proceeds go to Clean Ocean Action which has 4,000 volunteers mobilized and "offering real help, whatever it takes."
"We make a lot of music, and this is time to share that music and give it whatever punch I can give it," Mickey says. "The music was from the Jersey Shore, the Stone Pony. So that all kind of tied in so people can understand the loss of place. This is what musicians do. Try to reflect what's going on around them. The things that move you, you sing about them. You dance, you ritualize, you try to make meaning. These are mysterious things. Why did these storms come together, and whack them? This is part of the mystery of living life. Personal tragedy, group tragedy, and also to see that you can help. It's possible to make a difference with situations like this."
"If you can affect something and you see something you can affect in some small way you have to go after it. The Dalai Lama, I know his Holiness, and the way he thinks about the sound of his choir, the Tantric choir from Tibet, he says that even if the holy sound, the sacred sound reaches one human ear, it might do some good. I sort of feel the same way about this. I have great expectations but even if it helps one person get through the night, get through the tragedy, I will be so so happy. And the whole band, we feel the same way. It runs everywhere from that to making a whole bunch of money for them."
I tell him I remember the songs that flowed from and to New Orleans as we recovered.
"That's what music can do. It heals. You know, it heals the soul and makes you want to find victory over adversity. That's what song does, it brings the spirit up. It elevates the human spirit. Without the human spirit you might as well crawl under the covers and die. Once the spirit is gone you become a vegetable. You really can't function. So the idea is to keep the spirit healthy, right? Music's a tuning system. That's what music really does, it tunes you into the world around you and into yourself. And to others. That's what music really does. It's just vibrations. Controlled vibrations, but they're very powerful.
Speaking of which, he's just back in the studio after a tour with African Showboyz of Ghana.
"Wow, talk about vibrations. These guys are a thundering horde of drummers. It's beautiful. You've got seven drummers just really laying it down dirty so it's a real thrill with the African Showboyz. And the band's a joy. It's great to play every day with them."
I put in a request for a New Orleans stop on any future tour. When we last met he was headed to Congo Square to drum for an afternoon, which sounds about right. Mickey's back in the studio now, and I wished him luck shaking his cold as I shook off mine.
"We'll get it. stay with it."