Michael Nesmith, core member of 1960s band the Monkees and later founder of country-rock group the First National Band, today (Dec. 10) of congestive heart failure. He was 78.
“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 shared in a statement posted on Nesmith’s website. “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.”
His friend and Monkees bandmate Micky Dolenz shared a statement as well. “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.”
Born in Houston in 1942, Nesmith is best-known for his role in the Monkees, where he was famously the only bandmember with prior recording experience. Songs he wrote for the band include “The Girl I Knew Somewhere”, “Mary, Mary”, and “Listen to the Band.”
After the Monkees, Nesmith founded the First National Band, a pioneering group in the then-popular country-rock scene and a contemporary of Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers. The First National Band recorded three albums and produced some excellent songs, including one that charted, “Joanne.” (That song was even covered by Andy Williams.)
As significant as it was, Nesmith’s career went beyond songwriting and recording. As NPR published in a full obituary, Nesmith founded the Pacific Arts Corporation to manage his music and television projects. This included a show called PopClips, which combined music videos with commentary from a “veejay,” which later became one of the models for MTV.
Nesmith produced several films, including the 1984 cult hit Repo Man. And in 1982 he won a the first video Grammy for Elephant Parts, a sketch comedy and music TV show that was, well, kinda nuts.
Nesmith wrote songs initially made famous by other artists, including “Some of Shelly’s Blues” and most famously “Different Drum,” which was first recorded by the Greenbriar Boys and later by Linda Ronstadt.
On top of all this, Nesmith wrote books, produced films, appeared in small roles in movies and shows (including Portlandia), and even teamed with P.J. O’Rourke to drive in the Baja 1000 road race (O’Rourke wrote about that in his book Driving Like Crazy).
At the same time, in recent years he continued to record and tour under his own name and also with members of the Monkees on various revival tours. In late 2021 he even performed a series of concerts with Micky Dolenz.
“The Monkees reside in my life like a little nugget, a gem I enjoy,” he told Uncut magazine in 2016.
Read the full Michael Nesmith obituary on NPR.org.