During all of the coverage of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy along the eastern seaboard, former Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart was watching NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams. "He had [Jon] Bon Jovi on and they were talking about the Jersey Shore. And Brian, you could see it in his eyes, and Bon Jovi, it was loss of a sense of place. It was much more than just buildings and water and boardwalks," Hart tells Rolling Stone. "And it really touched me, the loss for all these people, their memories and where they grew up. It was just a tragedy."
Moved by their tales, Hart channeled his emotions into music. "It's what musicians do, when they cry, when they laugh, when they see anything, they try to reflect on what's going on in life, they write a song," he says.
The result is"Jersey Shore," which you can hear exclusively. The song blends the world rhythms Hart has become increasingly interested in with a doo-wop vibe that reflects the location that inspired the track. The latter is not surprising, since Hart had his own childhood memories to draw on as he wrote the song.
"I remember going there when I was a kid and my grandparents used to take me there. It felt really good to be there," he says. "I was from New York, and it was a great day. We used to go and walk on the boardwalk and it was a spiritual kind of thing for me."
Inspired by both the current news and his reflections, he found the song immediately. "This just popped out in five or seven minutes. There was very little thought behind this," he says. "It was mostly just outpouring of an emotion for me."
Hart is working on a new album, due in September, but despite the ease with which the song emerged, it won’t influence his other work. "I'll probably never write another song like this again," he says.
Hart wanted to make the song available after news coverage had faded because, as he points out, the people hit hardest by Sandy are still in need of help. "Now is when they can use the strength to rebuild, the hope," he says. "Falling a little bit after the event, this is the time when you need the push, you need the punch. There's still a lot of hardship on the ground."
All proceeds from the song "Jersey Shore" will go to Clean Ocean Action. "The money that's being raised from this will go to the Clean Ocean Action people down there, the 4,000 volunteers. They're on the ground, they really do the clean-up work, the survival work," he says. "And this is a song of survival, it's a song of hope."