On Monday evening, Grateful Dead band member Mickey Hart helped screen the D.C. premiere of "The Music Never Stopped" at Landmark's E Street Cinema. The film, which tells the story of a mental patient who loves the Grateful Dead's music, is based on a study by famed psychiatrist Oliver Sacks.
Hart has been studying music and neurological issues for quite some time and is a member of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function at Beth Abraham Hospital. The musician chatted with POLITICO about his involvement with the film and the lawmakers he hopes to see during his swing through Washington:
POLITICO: How did you get involved with this film?
Hart: It happened a long time ago, in a faraway place (Laughter). There's the real story and then the movie. I play the part, in the real story. Oliver Sacks brought his patient, who in the movie is called Gabriel, to a Grateful Dead concert I had invited them to. ... Now Gabriel, in the film, his clock kind of stopped in 1968. He had a traumatic brain injury and he was kind of lost in the counterculture, and then Oliver brought him to the concerts at Madison Square Garden in 1991. So, between 1968 and 1991, he was in darkness. He couldn't talk, he couldn't function, but the last memory he had was of the Grateful Dead and being at a Grateful Dead concert and enjoying all of that. ... He remembered the band and he started to talk and become animated. ... Oliver was just amazed that he had come out of darkness.
POLITICO: What would you like to see come out of Washington with regards to funding or support for music as an alternative or supplemental version of therapy and treatment for certain brain diseases?
Hart: Now we know that the neural pathways are stimulated and reconnected when we play music or when people listen to music or are around music. ... I testified in 1991 … before a [Senate] committee
chaired by Harry Reid at the time, for music as an alternative medicine for these kind of motor impairments. ... It works to repair neurological afflictions, strokes, dementia, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's,
etc. ... People think it's peripheral. They don't really understand the new science that's sprung up recently.
POLITICO: Did the fact that a U.S. president — Ronald Reagan — suffered from Alzheimer's help focus attention on that disease and others of the brain?
Hart: I don't know if Ronald Reagan ever really pursued any music therapy. But I know that Gabby Giffords is going through music therapy now, and I understand that the results are fantastic.
POLITICO: You played at one of Barack Obama's inaugural balls in 2009. Any plans to swing by 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. during this trip?
Hart: I might, I don't know if I'll get to see him this time. But there will be a lot of senators and Congress people there – Nancy Pelosi, Pat Leahy, Al Franken – [and] Tipper Gore. … We're setting up some subcommittee hearings, but I'd sure love to show the president this movie and talk to him about the issue.
POLITICO: No doubt you've seen the president and first lady's White House concerts, featuring such notables as Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney. Has this been a vote of confidence for those in the arts industry?
Hart: It's a nod to the importance of the arts. The fact is humans are hard-wired for music and dance. Everything else follows: Science, math, technology, engineering. It's what makes us human, the arts. ... So when I see art being recognized by anybody in government, I say, 'Hooray!'
By - Patrick Gavin