Drummer Bill Kreutzmann, best known as the steadfast heartbeat of the Grateful Dead from 1965 to 1995, has devoted his life to stretching and surpassing the percussive limits of music. Armed with his signature dynamic rhythm and uncanny subtly, Kreutzmann’s lifetime pursuit has garnered him the reputation as an unequivocal, if enigmatic, backbeat.
Enigmatic because, during his four decade career with the Grateful Dead, and even since then, Kreutzmann has let his sweet rhythm and undeniable musical charisma do the talking. And that’s right where he’s most comfortable. He and fellow Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart (who joined Kreutzmann and the band in 1967, making the Grateful Dead the first rock band to have two drummers), were together known as the “Rhythm Devils” due to their ability to send audiences into paroxysms of polyrhythmic ecstasy.
If such a thing as a psychedelic style of drumming exists, Kreutzmann arguably defined in all its extended percussive energy. His preference for a shuffle rhythm, he reckons in retrospect, is rooted in an early passion for the music of Fats Domino and Ray Charles. “I like to turn corners rapidly,” Bill says. “I like to establish a feeling and then add radical or oblique juxtapositions to that feeling.”
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