Michael Nesmith, a guitarist, singer, and songwriter best known as a member of television band The Monkees, died on December 10th. 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 said in a statement provided to Rolling Stone. “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.”
A native of Texas, Nesmith was raised in Dallas, where he attended Thomas Jefferson High School but dropped out before graduation. After a stint in the U.S. Air Force, he earned a GED and enrolled in San Antonio College where he met future Monkee John Kuehne and two began to collaborate musically.
Nesmith then relocated to Los Angeles, where he began performing folk and original music at concert venues around the city and he secured a gig as the master of ceremonies for a weekly new artist series at Hollywood nightclub The Troubadour.
In 1965, his original music drew interest from the label world, and he was offered a publishing deal and he also successfully auditioned for the role of Mike in the television series The Monkees.
Nesmith would portray ‘Mike’ between 1965 and 1970 but he and the other members of the group found themselves increasingly at odds over the lack of creative control for the television band.
The Monkees eventually ousted producer Don Kirshner and took control of their records but only truly collaborated on one album, Headquarters, after which Nesmith began to withhold his music from the band’s releases.
In 1970, he asked to be released from his contract with the group and focused on his side project, First National Band, a country-rock act which he launched with Kuehne, John Ware, and Red Rhodes.
Nesmith was the principle songwriter for the group, which scored modest hits with “Joanne,” “Silver Moon,” and “Nevada Fighter.”
Nesmith did not rejoin his former comrades in The Monkees for the band’s 20th reunion at The Greek Theater in 1986, but he did appear with them on stage during an encore.
In 1989, he rejoined the Monkees for a performance at the Universal Amphitheatre and again in 1996 to record Justus, The Monkees first new album in more than 2 decades.
In 2016, Nesmith contributed vocally and instrumentally to the Monkees’ 50th anniversary album Good Times! and toured with Micky Dolenz in 2018 “The Monkees Present: The Mike and Micky Show”, but Nesmith was forced to cut the tour short, later telling Rolling Stone that he underwent a quadruple bypass heart surgery, and had been hospitalized for over a month.
Earlier this year, Nesmith announced a farewell tour with Micky Dolenz, who is now the sole surviving member of the Monkees.