I spent a good portion of this blog reminiscing about Monkeemania this summer. Rightfully, I’m stunned to learn the mercurial Michael Nesmith died this morning in his sleep. He was 78 years old.
Nesmith will always be associated with the woolhat-wearing Mike of The Monkees. Though the producers didn’t care if any member could play the instruments, he certainly did. He made a stir until the group took creative control of their music. An accomplished musician and songwriter, Mike could hold his own on his 12 string Gretsch. He also penned several well-known Monkee tunes – “Mary-Mary,” “Papa Gene’s Blues,” and “Circle Sky.” When Don Kirshner rejected a Nesmith tune for the group, Mike gave the ultimate kiss-off song, “Different Drum,” to the Stone Poneys. Their debut record launched the career of a singer named Linda Ronstadt.
Though he could never quite shake the image of being a Monkee, The Nez left us with a legacy of great music and revolutionary ideas. In the 1970s, he embarked on a solo career with his country-rock First National Band. The first album, Magnetic South, gave us the top 40 hit “Joanne.” The critically acclaimed Nevada Fighter featured a unique and haunting cover of “Texas Morning/Tumbling Tumbleweed.” Sadly, this didn’t chart, but I remember the song receiving decent local airplay. As the 80s dawned, seeing the potential of promo music videos, he went to Warner with an idea of an all-music video channel. This crazy idea became a revolution in the music industry known as MTV. In the 1990s, recognizing the potential of the internet, The Nez mainstreamed the use of multimedia and streaming music formats.
This past summer Nesmith and Dolenz, the last two surviving members of The Monkees, reunited for one final tour. Though some shows were canceled or rescheduled due to the Delta surge, the duo soldiered on until November.
As the tour wrapped a few weeks ago, his death today was a shock. I’ll share one nice thing from July – Nez sent me a personally autographed copy of Infinite Tuesday. Of course, I’ll always treasure it.
Happy trails, Nez. Thanks for the tunes.