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Michael Nesmith (1942–2021), member of the Monkees

by Kirk Fox

Michael Nesmith was a singer, guitarist, and songwriter with the Monkees and the First National Band.

The Monkee that wore a wool hat

Michael Nesmith gained fame when he was cast as one of the band members on the televison series “The Monkees.” Nesmith, Peter Tork, Davy Jones, and Mickey Dolenz were cast as young carefree members of an up and coming pop rock band that were modeled after the Beatles. Mike was known as the quiet Monkee who wore a wool hat, even at the beach. In fact, he wore the wool hat to his audition and the producers liked it. Each episode of the show would feature the band performing a Monkees song. The series and the band’s music was very popular though at first the songs were written by professional songwriters such as Boyce and Hart, Carole King, and Neil Diamond. Nesmith was a talented singer, songwriter and guitarist who was the most vocal in demanding that they record and perform their own music. The Monkees third album “Headquarters,” released in 1967, was the first to mostly feature their own work. Nesmith’s Monkees songs include “Mary, Mary,” “You Just May Be the One,” and “The Girl I Knew Somewher.” He left the band in 1970, choosing to pursue his own solo music career. He did participate in some of the Monkees reunion tours and albums but less often than the others. He had just finished a tour in November with fellow Monkee Mickey Dolenz, who is now the sole surviving member of the band.

Post Monkees career

After the Monkees, Nesmith formed the First National Band, a pioneering coutry rock band that had a top 30 song titled “Joanne” in 1970. The band was a template for more successful country rock groups that would follow such as the Eagles. He released many solo albums, his most recent in 2015. He was a highly influential music video director who won the first Grammy Award for long form music video in 1982 for his music and comedy skit video “Elephant Parts.” Nesmith was the executive producer of the cult classic films “Repo Man” and “Tapeheads” and had a recurring role on the IFC series “Portlandia.”


Notable Quote

“We were kids with our own taste in music and were happier performing songs we liked – and/or wrote – than songs that were handed to us,” he said. “It made for a better performance. It was more fun. That this became a bone of contention seemed strange to me, and I think to some extent to each of us — sort of “What’s the big deal, why won’t you let us play the songs we are singing?” – He told Rolling Stone in 2012

Tributes to Michael Nesmith

Full Obituary: Rolling Stone

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