- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 13, 2000

To their mutual delight, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann are still alive and Dead after all these years.

The two made up the twin drumming juggernaut in the Grateful Dead, one of rock's most fabled groups from 1967 until the death of singer and lead guitarist Jerry Garcia in 1995.

Now, five years after the Dead crumbled in the wake of Mr. Garcia's passing, Mr. Hart and Mr. Kreutzmann are together again in the Other Ones. A loosely knit collective, which also features singer-keyboardist Bruce Hornsby and ex-Dead mainstay Bob Weir, the Other Ones was launched in 1996 under the auspices of the now semiannual summer extravaganza known as the Furthur Festival.

"We're having the time of our lives," Mr. Hart said from a San Francisco Bay Area studio where the latest edition of the Other Ones was rehearsing for a tour that began at Coors Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, Calif.

Mr. Kreutzmann agrees: "The interaction I have now with Mickey surprised me; it was more charged than I remembered it. The big difference is Mickey is really happy now playing music."

"I am happier," Mr. Hart affirms. "And when I'm happier, he's happier. I think we're both happier now, just with life. And there's no tension in this band we come in smiling, and we leave smiling so what's there not to like? Life is good. The rhythm is right."

The timing wasn't right, though, at least not for Mr. Kreutzmann until now.

Stunned by Mr. Garcia's death, he retreated to the Hawaiian island of Kauai in 1995. He spent his time in quiet contemplation, interspersed with scuba diving and low-key jam sessions with local musicians, notably jazz pianist Jim Winkler. He also recorded a bluesy album, "Backbone," with Kauai guitarist Rick Barnett.

Having spent 30 years in the Dead which he joined in 1965, two years before Mr. Hart came on board at his invitation Mr. Kreutzmann says he was happy to assume a low profile. Mr. Hart, conversely, immersed himself in musical activity with the Other Ones, Mystery Box, his international Planet Drum group and the Mickey Hart Band.

Was Mr. Hart surprised when Mr. Kreutzmann, his onetime drum student in the mid-1960s, suddenly returned to the fold less than two months ago?

"I knew that, sooner or later, he'd run out of 'island time,' and his trigger finger would get itchy," Mr. Hart replies. "He had to make peace with himself, and everybody grieves in their own way. When Jerry died, Bill went to the islands, and I jumped into music. We're not the same people, and time has a wonderful way of healing. I know Billy loves music and always has. He's playing better now than I have heard him in many, many years."

Mr. Hart and Mr. Kreutzmann both sang the praises of new Other Ones bassist Alfonso Johnson, a former member of Weather Report. Both are enthusiastic about the Other Ones' decision to alternate familiar and revamped versions of classic Dead songs, including a Latin-tinged version of "Friend of the Devil."

"Bill and I are playing better than we have since the '60s," Mr. Hart says. "We're more at peace with ourselves and each other. If art really does reflect life, then this is a good sign."

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