Michael Nesmith, singer/guitarist and songwriter for The Monkees who went on to become a respected songwriter, producer, and a pioneer in the nascent field of music video, has died at the age of 78.
The Monkees’ manager, Andrew Sandoval, confirmed the news on Facebook, writing, “It is with deep sadness that I mark the passing of Michael Nesmith. We shared many travels and projects together over the course of 30 years, which culminated in a Monkees farewell tour that wrapped up only a few weeks ago.”
“That tour was a true blessing for so many. And in the end I know that Michael was at peace with his legacy which included songwriting, producing, acting, direction and so many innovative ideas and concepts,” Sandoval continued. “I am positive the brilliance he captured will resonate and offer the love and light towards which he always moved.”
“Nez expressed the highest part of his being through his voice,” Sandoval wrote. “And you could get no closer to him then through knowing his work. May all those who loved him feel his comfort at this time – just listen and he will be there for you.”
He ended by posting a quote from Nesmith’s song “I’ll Remember You”: “Thank you for the times you gave me, thank you for the tears you saved me, please take this song as my thanks to you.”
Nesmith’s family told Rolling Stone in a statement, “With Infinite Love we announce that Michael Nesmith has passed away this morning in his home, surrounded by family, peacefully and of natural causes. We ask that you respect our privacy at this time and we thank you for the love and light that all of you have shown him and us.”
The death of Nesmith, known on the show for his omnipresent wool hat, leaves Micky Dolenz as the only living member of The Monkees. Fellow members Davy Jones and Peter Tork died in 2012 and 2019, respectively.
Along with Tork and Dolenz, Nesmith answered an ad which led them to be cast in The Monkees TV show, which ran from 1966-68 on NBC. Jones was cast separately. Initially dubbed the “Pre-Fab Four,” The Monkees soon out-paced The Beatles on the charts, scoring number-one albums and a string of hit singles. However, the four Monkees — especially Nesmith — were frustrated by not having complete creative control over their music.
When The Monkees finally gained that control, their chart success continued for a while longer, but after the show in ended in 1968, the group split in 1969. Nesmith then formed the First National Band and released three albums that are now considered pioneering examples of country rock. He also had success as a producer and as a songwriter: He wrote the hit “Different Drum” for Linda Ronstadt‘s band The Stone Poneys, plus songs for The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Lynn Anderson.
In 1974, Nesmith founded the multimedia firm Pacific Arts, which released records, tapes and cassettes, but then moved into the new field of home video. Nesmith created a video clip for his song “Rio,” and then turned the idea into a TV show called PopClips for Nickelodeon. When PopClips was sold to Time Warner/Amex in 1980, the idea was developed into MTV. Ironically, it was MTV that spurred a Monkees revival in the ’80s by re-running the old NBC series.
Nesmith continued to work in the video field and won the first-ever Grammy awarded for music video for his 1982 music and comedy collection, Elephant Parts. That led to a 1985 series on NBC called Michael Nesmith in Television Parts, which featured then-unknowns like Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Whoopi Goldberg and Garry Shandling.
Nesmith, who’d inherited half his mother’s $50 million estate in 1980 — she invited Liquid Paper — didn’t join Tork, Dolenz and Jones for the successful 1986 Monkees tour and subsequent 1987 album, Pool It!. But in 1996, he rejoined his band mates for their album Justus, and participated in a TV special and U.K. tour. After Jones died in 2012, Nesmith continued to work with Dolenz and Tork.
Nesmith’s final show took place last month at LA’s Greek Theater, as part of a farewell tour he did with Dolenz, The tour were booked on The Beach Boys Cruise in early 2022.
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