100 Greatest Drummers of All Time

From rock thunder machines to punk powerhouses, we count down the kings and queens of slam

Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann
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Malcolm Lubliner/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty34/100

34. Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann

Mickey Hart joined founding Grateful Dead member Bill Kreutzmann in 1967, making the Dead one of rock's first double-drummer outfits. No other rock band took percussive symbiosis further. "The language that Bill and I share is not spoken," said Hart. "It's body language, winks and movement ... a secret language that we cannot describe." Or as Kreutzmann said: "Mickey hears in more of a straight-16th staccato, and I put a little more dotted thing with it." Hart also employs RAMU, his digital "Random Access Musical Universe," and the infamous "beam," an eight-foot, 13-string "Pythagorean monochord." By 1979 the Dead had replaced their interstellar mainstay "Dark Star" with what tapers referred to as "Drums>Space," a drum duet that evolved into a freely improvised ticket to unexplored musical regions, bringing the avant-garde to fields of rock fans the world over.

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