The Monkees’ Michael Nesmith Dead At 78
Michael Nesmith, a member of the hugely popular ’60s group the Monkees, has died. Rolling Stone reports that Nesmith died of natural causes, while surrounded by family and resting peacefully at home. Nesmith was 78.
Michael Nesmith was born in Houston, and he moved to Dallas with his mother as a kid after his mother split up. When Nesmith was a teenager, his mother invented Liquid Paper and founded the Liquid Paper Corporation, which she eventually sold to Gillette. Nesmith enlisted in the Air Force before graduating high school. After his discharge, Nesmith studied at San Antonio College and began playing folk music. He eventually moved to Los Angeles and became a fixture at the Sunset Strip club the Troubadour. He also wrote songs, including “Different Drum,” later recorded by Linda Ronstadt. In 1965, Nesmith auditioned for The Monkees, a new sitcom about a fictional Beatles-style band, and he won the role.
The Monkees was an immediate hit, and so were the Monkees themselves. Under the supervision of music-publishing baron Don Kirshner, the Monkees recorded Beatle-esque songs written by professional pop songwriters and usually played by studio musicians. The Monkees’ records were insanely successful. In short order, the group racked up three #1 singles and, at their peak, famously sold more records than the Beatles. Nesmith had some influence on the Monkees’ music, and the group recorded the Nesmith-written song “Mary, Mary” in 1966; Run-DMC later sampled it. But Nesmith wasn’t happy with his life as part of a prefabricated pop product, and he spearheaded a revolt against Kirshner. In 1967, the band ousted Kirshner and began to operate as a self-directed band.
In 1970, the Monkees broke up, and Nesmith formed a country-rock group called the First National Band. The group broke up a year later, after scoring a minor hit with “Joanne” and releasing three largely unsuccessful albums. After that breakup, Nesmith produced folk records for artists like Bert Jansch, formed a songwriting partnership with Linda Hargrove, and founded the early home-video company Pacific Arts.
In the ’80s, Nesmith produced the music videos for Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long (All Night)” and Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel.” He also created and hosted a short-lived variety show called Michael Nesmith In Television Parts. Nesmith was an executive producer of the cult classic Repo Man, and he released occasional solo albums and. In 2018, Nesmith played a short reunion tour with the First National Band. That same year, Nesmith went through quadruple bypass heart surgery.
When the Monkees reunited in the ’80s, Nesmith didn’t take part at first, though he did rejoin the band at a 1986 show at the Greek Theatre, and then a few more times over the years. In 1995, he rejoined the band in time for the 1996 LP Justus. Over the next few decades, Nesmith was essentially a part-time Monkee. Nesmith’s bandmate Davy Jones died in 2012, and Peter Tork followed in 2019. That year, Nesmith and Micky Dolenz, the only surviving Monkees, planned a farewell tour, but the pandemic forced its postponement. The tour finally happened earlier this year, and those two Monkees played their final show at the Greek Theatre last month.
Below, check out some of Michael Nesmith’s work.