Michael Nesmith, Monkees singer-songwriter and guitarist, dies at 78
The Monkees singer-songwriter and guitarist Michael Nesmith died on Friday morning from natural causes. He was 78 years old.
"With Infinite Love we announce that Michael Nesmith has passed away this morning in his home, surrounded by family, peacefully and of natural causes," his family said in a statement obtained by EW. "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."
Born in Houston, Texas, Nesmith auditioned to join the Monkees — a band put together by TV producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider with the idea of doing a TV series about the adventures of a pop group — in 1965. Nesmith snagged a spot in the group alongside Mikey Dolenz, Davy Jones, and Peter Tork as actors on the TV series, as well as providing vocals on the songs. Nesmith contributed some songs he'd written with producers to the mix of bops the band would perform.
Over the years, Nesmith amassed more songwriting credits than all the other members combined and wrote many of the band's most famous songs including, "Mary, Mary," "Circle Sky," "Listen to the Band," and "The Girl I Knew Somewhere."
The Monkees television series aired on NBC in 1966, the same year the band scored No. 1 hits with "I'm a Believer" and "Last Train to Clarksville." By the time their third album, 1967's Headquarters, rolled around, the band had grown tired of criticism that they didn't write and perform their own music, so they insisted on co-writing the songs and playing their own instruments on the project.
In 1968, Nesmith recorded his first solo album, Wichita Train Whistle Songs. Nesmith departed the Monkees in 1969 and started his own group, the First National Band. The group released two albums in 1970: Magnetic South and Loose Salute. Nesmith played reunion concerts with the Monkees and the First National Band over the years, even as recently as 2021 when he teamed up with the Monkees for a series of reunion tours. In 2016, the band released the album Good Times! to positive reviews and went on a farewell tour in 2021, with their final show taking place in November at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles.
Dolenz, the last surviving member of the Monkees as Jones died in 2012 and Tork died in 2019, was among those paying their respects, writing, "I'm heartbroken. I've lost a dear friend and partner. I'm so grateful that we could spend the last couple of months together doing what we loved best — singing, laughing, and doing shtick. I'll miss it all so much. Especially the shtick. Rest in peace, Nez."
The band's manager, Andrew Sandoval, also shared a heartfelt tribute to the singer on Facebook.
"It is with deep sadness that I mark the passing of Michael Nesmith," he wrote. "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."
He continued, "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. 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. 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."
Nesmith was also a huge and early proponent of the music video, creating the first televised music video program PopClips, which aired on Nickelodeon. In 1980, after inheriting a substantial sum from his mother — Bette Nesmith Graham, inventor of Liquid Paper — he invested the money in multiple business ventures, including home video company Pacific Arts, producing movies like Repo Man and Tapeheads.
The singer/songwriter was hospitalized in 2018, diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and underwent quadruple bypass heart surgery. He was forced to postpone a tour with his Monkees bandmate Micky Dolenz as a result.