Monkees singer, songwriter and guitarist was 78 – The Hollywood Reporter

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Michael Nesmith, the wool-hat singer-songwriter and guitarist who, along with Davy Jones, Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz, became a 1960s television star and pop sensation as a member of the Monkees, has passed away . He was 78 years old.

Nesmith died of natural causes on Friday, his family said Rolling stonee.

“With Infinite Love, we announce that Michael Nesmith passed away this morning in his home surrounded by family, peacefully and from natural causes,” they said.

Texan whose mother invented Liquid Paper, the Grammy winner also founded a multimedia company through which he created the MTV prototype and produced several films, most notably the cult classic from 1984. Man rest.

Nesmith was 24 years old and a promising musician who stood out for writing tunes such as “Different Drum” – recorded in 1967 by the Stone Ponies under Linda Ronstadt – when he was chosen as one of the four. carefree young people living in a California beach house looking to make their mark in the music world on NBC monkeys.

Created by producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, the comedy was designed to capitalize on the popularity of The Beatles by reflecting the craziness of To help! and A hard day’s Night. An immediate hit on its debut in September 1966, it won the Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy after its first season and became a pop culture phenomenon.

monkeys was the first TV show that had only young people in mind, with no “adult” figures in sight (no parent, no manager), “Gwen Ihnat wrote in a 2016 article for The AV Club. “It was also unusual that the four didn’t have character names but basically played themselves: Mike the older frontman, Davy the idol, Micky the wacky coupe and Peter the innocent child.”

Nicknamed the “Prefab Four,” the Monkees each received $ 400 per week for the show. Nesmith walked in after responding to a trades ad. “Madness !! Auditions” reads a blurb published on September 8, 1965. “Folk & Roll Musicians for Acting Roles in New TV Series. Racing pieces for 4 crazy boys ages 17-21 year.

Nearly 450 aspiring comedians-musicians have tried their hand. Nesmith wowed producers with his nonchalant demeanor. He was also very funny – so much so that after the testing audience didn’t connect with the pilot, the producers added his screen test and Jones’ screen test, and approval ratings skyrocketed.

There’s another reason Nesmith may have gotten the job: he rode a motorcycle. To keep his hair out of his face, he wore a green woolen hat. This look on a sunny day in California made a big impression during her audition.

The producers intended to call his character “Wool Hat”, but Nesmith hated the idea. Schneider and Rafelson agreed to call him Mike but insisted that he keep the hat.

Realizing that the series could be a record gold mine, Screen Gems featured two songs in each episode. Three Monkees singles – “I’m a Believer”, “Last Train to Clarksville” and “Daydream Believer” – reached number one, as did their first four albums – monkeys, More Monkees, Headquarter and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.

In 1967, the Monkees surpassed the combined sales of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

Music producer Don Kirshner led the recording sessions, selected songs and solicited arias from Neil Diamond, Carole King & Gerry Goffin, Neil Sedaka & Carole Bayer Sager and Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart. The Monkees sang, but others played instruments.

This angered Nesmith, the group’s most accomplished musician; he thought the Monkees could become a real group if given the chance. He would lead the charge to give the boys more weight.

The Monkees took to the beach for their NBC show.
Bettman / Getty

The series ended in March 1968 after its second season, but the Monkees made a final on-screen bow with To manage (1968). Written by Rafelson (who also directed) and Jack Nicholson, the counter-culture film was said to have been conceived over a weekend fueled by LSD and pot.

To manage was meant to be a bold satire that poked fun at the war, Hollywood falsity, and the Monkees themselves, but it was a box office disaster. “They work very hard and they are not good,” wrote Renata Adler in her review for The New York Times.

The soundtrack was equally disappointing. To manage peaked at No.45 – the first time a Monkees LP had failed to break the top five.

“We were all – very tired – and the show was starting to repeat itself,” Nesmith said in an interview in 2018. “Things like monkeys show have a specific lifespan, and when it’s over, it’s over, left to the story to assess.

Robert Michael Nesmith was born in Houston on December 30, 1942. His parents, Warren and Bette, divorced when he was 4 and Nesmith moved with his mother to Dallas. Her mother did office work to make ends meet, but that all changed in 1951 when she came up with the idea for Liquid Paper (originally called “Mistake Out”).

She used the proceeds to start a multi-million dollar business before selling it to Gillette in 1979 for $ 49 million, but died of a stroke soon after, leaving half of her fortune to her. son.

After two years in the US Air Force, where he obtained his GED, Nesmith enrolled in San Antonio College, but was mainly interested in songwriting and guitar. He and fellow aspiring musician John Kuehne began performing together and traveled to Los Angeles in an attempt to break into the music business.

In 1963, Nesmith recorded his first single, “Wanderin ‘”, followed in 1965 by other songs released under the name Michael Blessing.

Meanwhile Frankie Laine recorded Nesmith’s “Pretty Little Princess” in 1965, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band included his “Mary, Mary” on their 1966 album, Is West, and The Stone Ponies released a version of their “Some of Shelly’s Blues” in 1968.

Nesmith’s “Papa Gene’s Blues” and “Sweet Young Thing” (co-written with King and Goffin) were featured on the Monkees’ debut album, while their second LP featured “Mary, Mary” and another song he wrote , “The Kind of Girl I might like. But it was Kirshner in command, and that angered Nesmith.

As detailed in the book by Randi L. Massingill in 2005, Full Control: The Mike Nesmith Story, Kirshner revealed his choice for the Monkees’ next single at a party in 1967 at his bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel. When Nesmith objected, Screen Gems attorney Herb Moelis defended Kirshner’s background. Nesmith countered that the Monkees could record “Happy Birthday” with a beat and that it would sell a million copies. If he didn’t have more of a say in the band’s music, he would quit.

“Moelis then made the mistake of telling Michael he had better read his contract,” Massingill wrote. “With that, Michael exploded in anger and WHAM! He passed his first right through the wall of the bungalow. Amid the dust and shock of it all, Michael turned to Moelis and said, “It could’ve been your face, motherfucker.”

Schneider agreed to give the Monkees control of the B-side of each single, but when Kirshner broke the deal with the very next release, he was gone. In the future, the Monkees, led by Nesmith, had full control of their music.

In 1969, Nesmith bought out his contract with the Monkees at considerable expense to join Kuehne, drummer John Ware and pedal steel guitarist Red Rhodes in Michael Nesmith & the First National Band. They released three albums, seeing minor successes with the singles “Joanne” and “Silver Moon,” both written by Nesmith, before going their separate ways in 1971.

In 1974, Nesmith founded Pacific Arts Productions, which distributed his solo albums and promoted artists such as Kaleidoscope, Fresh and Pacific Steel Company.

He started creating videos around his songs, most notably “Rio” from 1977, and approached Warner Communications with the idea of ​​a TV series containing music videos. Starting from, Popclips was born and lasted six episodes on Nickelodeon in 1980. (Howie Mandel was among the veejays of the series.)

John Lack, the Warner executive overseeing the project, believed the program would work better as a cable channel, and Popclips would become MTV. Lack wanted Nesmith to run it, but he refused, more interested in creating content than directing TV.

His biggest hit in live video was 1981’s “Elephant Parts”, a wacky line of comedic parodies woven around videos of five Nesmith songs. A one-hour product for VHS, it earned Nesmith a Grammy for Video of the Year. (He spoke to David Letterman in 1983 about the project.)

Pacific Arts has also touched on functionality. In addition to Man rest (which featured an appearance of Nesmith as a rabbi), the company produced Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann (1982), which Nesmith co-wrote, Square dance (1987) and Reading heads (1988).

Seeking to expand its library, Pacific Arts entered into an agreement to acquire the personal video rights to the PBS Library; after the network’s overthrow, Nesmith filed a lawsuit and won a $ 47 million settlement.

Nesmith returned to comedy / music video format in 1985 with TV parts, an animated summer series with performances by Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, Whoopi Goldberg and Garry Shandling.

In 1986, Nesmith joined Jones, Dolenz, and Tork in recalling a Greek Theater concert that marked the Monkees’ 20th anniversary. He later appeared as Santa Claus in a Monkees video on MTV, performed with his bandmates at the Universal Amphitheater, and was there when the Monkees received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1989.

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From left to right: Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood in 2016
Michael Tullberg / Getty

A year after Nesmith was nominated for a Grammy for Best New Age Album for 1994 The garden, The Monkees reunited with Only U.S, his first studio album since To manage. Nesmith then wrote and directed Hey, hey, it’s the Monkees, a one-hour special show mixing interviews and videos of Only U.S Songs.

After Jones’ sudden death in 2012, Nesmith joined Dolenz and Tork on an American tour.

“The Monkees fans… the four of us were discussing going out and playing when David died. It was a real surprise – very unexpected – and it seemed like if we ever had to do it, we should do it now. Each of us had our own schedule with the tour, I think, but mine was to give fans another pass to their Monkees – which for many was a big part of their childhood – and performing the songs.

And after Tork died in 2019, he and Dolenz toured in 2021.

Nesmith was married and divorced three times. Survivors include her children, Christian, Jonathan, Jason and Jessica.


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