Mickey Hart is putting his grooves to work for a good cause.
The Grateful Dead drummer has released the digital single "Jersey Shore" to benefit the superstorm Sandy relief efforts of Highlands-based nonprofit organization Clean Ocean Action.
"They're taking care of all the things that are still there on the ground: memories, photographs … there's a lot of them, so they do a lot and a lot of people have told me of their good work, so that's where it's going," Hart said. "I wanted to stay away from the big (organizations), I really don't know what's happening with that. They're all very vital and important, but my style is a little different.
"In the Rex Foundation, the Grateful Dead's charitable arm, we vet who we're going to give (funds) to and we make sure that with our small (donation) amounts we get the biggest bang for our buck, because it's really not easy to give away money graciously and smartly. We chose this organization because they're quality people and they're far-reaching and they're there now."
Clean Ocean Action has organized more than 3,800 volunteers since November 2012, according to a news release, with volunteers participating in projects including beach sweeps, toy drives for children displaced by the storm, clean-ups of homes and businesses and memorabilia clean-ups, finding and cataloging items that may be significant so people can find them through their local police departments.
The Mickey Hart Band track "Jersey Shore" combines world music rhythms, Hart's stock and trade in recent years, with gospel and R&B-inspired harmonies evocative of the music of Asbury Park's West Side scene.
"I'm really proud of it; it was one of those little miracle songs," Hart said of the tune. "It just hatched in a minute, was composed in a few minutes and to your ears in a few minutes."
The song's inspiration, Hart said, came from Middletown native Brian Williams' coverage of Sandy devastation on the NBC Evening News along with Sayreville native Jon Bon Jovi.
"Bon Jovi was on Brian Williams' NBC news thing and you see it in Brian's eyes and Bon Jovi's – the loss of place, the memories; in talking to the people you could see that it was brutal, just an extraordinary event," said Hart.
A native New Yorker, Hart has had a life-long attachment to the beaches of New Jersey. "I have some connection to those Shore towns, because I came from Far Rockaway and Coney Island and Atlantic Beach, I was in that zone. When you went to the Shore, it was different. A lot of people didn't live there, there wasn't that much room by the Shore, but people came there to enjoy the community, have a beer, walk, go on the rides, be with family, so it became kind of sacred in some way, a little more of a spiritual hit than you would get being in the city. You smell the salt water, the rock, the fish, the sand, the concessions, just the Shore. Or you could kick back and be alone with your thoughts, so it had a spiritual dimension to it.
"My grandparents used to take me to the Jersey Shore a couple of times a year just for the day, it was special. And so the song just came about and I thought that it might do some good."
'The storm's not over.'
Fans who donate and download "Jersey Shore" will receive more than two hours of music from Hart and his band, including tracks from his 2012 studio album "Mysterium Tremendum" and a full-length recording of the band's Aug. 17, 2012 show at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, which included Grateful Dead classics such as "Scarlet Begonias," "Fire on the Mountain" and "Brokedown Palace."
Discussing his hopes for the "Jersey Shore" single, Hart reflected on the thoughts of one of his famed collaborators.
"You know, the Dalai Lama has a very interesting take on sound. His choir is called the Gyuto Monks Tantric Choir – I recorded them and have made many records with them. He told me, 'Even if the sound touches one human ear, it might do some good.' I mean, that's in Dalai Lama-speak; my expectations are a little grander, perhaps. I would like a lot of people to have hope and for a lot of people to dig into their pockets and put some money down on this song and share it with the Jersey Shore, the people who are cleaning up and actually taking care of the business now, because the storm's not over."
Hart said part of the reason he released "Jersey Shore" now, several months after Sandy hit our area in October 2012, is to let those still suffering from the storm's aftermath know that they're not forgotten.
"When people know that someone took the time to write a song and people out there really care about them and it's not over and they're not just sitting in the middle of the night shivering and alone and they hear a song, you know what that does? A song can help you make it through the night,'' Hart said. "If it does that, I have great expectations for it, but that's good enough. I'll go with the Dalai Lama on that one."
By – Alex Biese