Mike Nesmith of the Monkees appeared terribly frail when I caught him and Micky Dolenz (“The Micky & Micky tour”) last month at New York City’s Town Hall.
Dolenz more or less carried the show, but when Nesmith performed “When I Cry,” he ably rose to the occasion. He began the song with a short dialogue about how much “The Monkees” meant to him.
It was a concert high-point and as emotional as it was, you sensed he knew the end was near. He died of heart failure on Friday (Dec. 10) at his home in Carmel Valley, Calif. He was 78.
“You could never, never have talked him out of the farewell tour,” says Dolenz of his 55-year Monkees bandmate. “He was absolutely determined to finish that tour.”
“I’m heartbroken. I’ve lost a dear friend and partner,” Dolenz added in a statement.
Mike had quite the career. He was a songwriter, actor, producer and novelist.
Everyone knows about his tenure with The Monkees; which was rambunctious, at times, and that his mother invented White Out, which she ended up selling to Gilette for millions of dollars.
What gets somewhat overlooked is his pioneering work with music videos and his own Pacific Arts company, which produced the movie “Tapeheads” and cult-favorite “Repo Man.”
His work was so significant and innovative, he was approached to run a burgeoning network in 1980 … something called MTV, which literally set the world on fire.
He passed on the offer and went onto to pioneer even more video work.
“The Mike and Micky” tour was canceled twice due to the pandemic, so the fact that it went on at all was amazing. He had had heart surgery two years ago, and his health remained a big question.
“He was really comfortable in the end. He told me in his living room just a few months ago, before the tour,” Andrew Sandoval, who had taken on The Monkees management duties and also Nesmith as a solo artist for the last decade, told Variety.
“You know, I finally really have come to accept the Monkees’ music. I really like it now. And it was an amazing moment. I was showing him a reissue of the first Monkees album that had just come out on vinyl. And he was like, ‘This is really beautiful.’
“The people who love this are really going to love this’. And he started to see it more through the eyes of his fans, how they loved it.
“And that was bringing him a lot of joy at the end of his life. Their joy was coming back on him. He finally really felt that, and it lit him up, you know?”
Sandoval recalled his pioneering video work.
Mike did the show “Pop Clips,” which was a forerunner of MTV. He sold the concept to Warner Communications, and that was one of his successes.
“He then became a producer of music videos, and produced music videos for Lionel Richie and all these other people.”
Mike was also a multi-media wizard. He was one of the first people to put a bar code on a record to track how artists got paid and to make it easier to handle inventory.
“He felt that if all records had barcodes on them, you could easily scan in and out SKU numbers, which is so contemporary, but this is something that he was thinking about in the 1970s.
“So he was a visionary. Any idea, there had to be a concept to drive it. There was no idea that was just simple — there was always some nuance.”
The TV series, “The Monkees” ran for two years from 1966 to 1968. He penned such hit songs as “Different Drum”, which singer Linda Ronstadt turned into a huge hit.
After the show ended, the group, Nesmith, Dolenz, Davy Jones and Peter Tork, stayed together and became one of the best-selling groups of the era.
Although initially formed as a TV band, the members all had musical talent. The band continued to churn out hits, until the finally broke up in 1970.
Nesmith and Tork, the affable, goofy bassist on the hit TV music show, fought for years to have The Monkees and, later, their own music taken seriously.
Tork died at 77 in 2019. Jones died of a sudden heart attack in 2012, while tending to his horses on his Florida farm.
After the Monkees, Nesmith continued writing songs and performing. His first outing with the country rock group The First National Band, led to a top-40 hit, “Joanne.”
The Monkees reunited in the 1980s and found their sound as popular as ever. They got together for several reunion tours.
In 1995, Nesmith reunited with his Monkees bandmates to to record astudio album titled Justus, released in 1996. He also wrote and directed a Monkees television special, “Hey, Hey, It’s the Monkees.”
He toured again in 2018 with Dolenz, but the road trip was cut short by his frail health. Nesmith had to be flown to a hospital for quadruple bypass surgery.
Nesmith was married three times and had four children.
“I’m so grateful that we could spend the last couple of months together doing what we loved best — singing, laughing and doing shtick,” said Dolenz.
“I’ll miss it all so much. Especially the shtick. Rest in peace, Nez. All my love.”
Check out the video below: