The Monkees singer and guitarist Michael Nesmith died on December 10. He was 78. His family confirmed his death with a statement that reads: “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.”
Nesmith was born in Houston, Texas, later relocating during his childhood years to Dallas with his mother, Bette, who invented Liquid Paper. Throughout his time at Thomas Jefferson High School, Nesmith became involved in theater productions and joined the school choir. However, his career in music and acting didn’t start until immediately after school. Once he graduated high school, he joined the Air Force. And, according to his biography, it wasn’t until he used a weekend pass to go see Hoyt Axton perform that he decided to take up the guitar and write his own songs.
A few years later, after establishing himself as a folk musician, he auditioned for The Monkees TV show after being encouraged by producer Frazier Mohawk to do so.
He played the swoopy-haired, green wool beanie-wearing guitarist and singer of the band. The show used songs that he’d already written, including “The Girl I Knew Somewhere,” “Mary, Mary,” “Listen To The Band.” He was also the driving force behind The Monkees being treated like a real band instead of them just portraying one on TV; Nesmith fought for the group’s creative freedom.
Though his time as one of The Monkees ended in 1970, Nesmith remained active in music. He formed the First National Band the same year. When that group called it quits in 1972, he then formed The Second National Band. He also worked as producer on albums like Bert Jansch’s L.A. Turnaround and Maitreya Kali’s Apache/Inca. He also produced the music videos for Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” and Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel,” as well as Repo Man.
In his final few performances, Nesmith embarked on a reunion tour this year with the only other surviving Monkees member, Micky Dolenz, to celebrate the group’s 55th anniversary. The final show was on November 14, 2021 at LA’s Greek Theatre.