Musician Michael Nesmith Passed Away at the Age of 78
Monkees singer and guitarist, Michael Nesmith, passed away on Friday, December 10, 2021, at the age of 78. Michael Nesmith’s cause of death has been announced as natural causes, but he was battling health problems during the last years of his life.
He was forced to cancel the last four dates of his 2018 tour with Micky Dolenz over a “minor health scare”. However, he had experienced quadruple bypass heart surgery and had been hospitalized for over a month, he said during an interview.
Nesmith was well-known as the Monkee in the green wool hat with the thick Texas drawl, and the writer of songs like
- Mary, Mary,
- Circle Sky,
- Listen to the Band,
- and The Girl I Knew Somewhere.
The great musician explained why he was so adamant that the Monkees write and record their own work despite the huge success they were enjoying at the time in 2012. “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. It made for 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 said.
Nesmith formed the First National Band when the Monkees dissolved in the late 60s. And despite recording three classic country-rock albums, running from the shadow of the Monkees was nearly impossible. The band broke up shortly before the Eagles hit big with “Take It Easy.”
Nesmith spent the rest of the 70s recording under-the-radar solo albums. But in 1980 his mother, Liquid Paper inventor Bette Nesmith Graham, died. He sponsored the money in many business ventures, along with movies like Tapeheads and Repo Man.
However, music remained close to his heart, and he returned to the Monkees in 2012 for a series of reunion tours and the 2016 LP Good Times! They went on a farewell tour this year, in 2021, and played their last show on November 14 at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles.
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Musician Michael Nesmith’s Life and Career
Robert Michael Nesmith was an only child who was born in Houston, Texas, in 1942. Nesmith took part in choral and drama activities at Thomas Jefferson High School in Dallas. Then he enrolled in the Air Force in 1960 and according to Wikipedia, he completed basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, was trained as an aircraft mechanic at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, and then was permanently stationed at the Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base near Burns Flat, Oklahoma.
Nesmith’s mother and stepfather gave him a guitar as a Christmas present after he served in the Air Force. He played alone and in a series of working bands, performing folk, country, and even rock & roll, as he learned as he went. His verse poetry formed the foundation for song lyrics, and he obtained a publishing agreement for his songs after relocating to Los Angeles.
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band covered Nesmith’s “Mary, Mary,” while Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys recorded “Different Drum” and “Some of Shelly’s Blues.” Frankie Laine recorded “Pretty Little Princess” in 1965 and released it as a single on ABC Records in 1968. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s 1970 album Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy popularized “Some of Shelly’s Blues” and “Propinquity (I’ve Just Begun to Care).” In 1963, Nesmith debuted as a recording artist with a song on the Highness label.
In 1965, he released a one-off single on Edan Records, followed by two additional singles, one of which was named “The New Recruit” under the name “Michael Blessing” and was issued on Colpix Records, which was also the label of Davy Jones, but the two would not meet until the Monkees formed.
He made a video clip for “Rio,” which inspired him to start the Nickelodeon cable network’s PopClips show. PopClips was purchased by the Time Warner/Amex partnership in 1980. PopClips was produced by Time Warner/Amex for the MTV network.
For the first time in 2018, Nesmith and Dolenz performed as a pair under the name “The Monkees Present: The Mike and Micky Show.” Due to Nesmith’s health difficulties and quadruple bypass surgery, the tour was cut short four times. On October 12, 2018, he contributed two songs to the Monkees’ 13th studio album, Christmas Party (their first Christmas album), which was released.
In 2019, Nesmith and Dolenz reunited to make up for the tour’s lost dates and added a few more, including a planned tour of Australia and New Zealand. “An Evening with the Monkees,” a follow-up tour planned by Nesmith and Dolenz, will commence in early 2020. However, the trip was postponed because of the COVID-19 epidemic. On May 4, 2021, Nesmith and Dolenz announced that the Monkees will disband after a farewell tour.
The “Monkees Farewell Tour,” which took place in the United States from September to November, was dubbed “The Monkees Farewell Tour.” They were unable to perform in Canada, the United Kingdom, or Australia because of limitations imposed by the continuing COVID-19 outbreak. The tour’s last engagement was November 14, 2021, at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.
Michael won the first Grammy Award given for Video of the Year for his hour-long television show, Elephant Parts in 1981.
The legend published his first novel, The Long Sandy Hair of Neftoon Zamora in 1998. It was developed originally as an online project and was later published as a paper book by St Martin’s Press. His second novel, The America Gene, was released in 2009 as an online version.
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Reactions to Michael Nesmith’s Death
Several fans, friends, and supporters reacted and stated their condolences on social media websites following this tragic news.
An online user wrote: “Sad. Three out of four Monkees have now gone to heaven…” Another added: “The best musician of the Monkees. Also, a pioneer of music videos and was the brains behind PBS’ online video catalog.”
The Austin Rhodes Show wrote on Facebook: “Thanks for the music and the memories… such an amazing talent! Michael Nesmith… God rest his soul.”
A fan wrote on Twitter: “As a kid, I watched Monkees reruns because they were silly fun. As a teen, I noticed those songs were great. As an adult, I found out how talented they were & respected by their peers. Michael Nesmith’s passing reminds me to post, put them in the @rockhall, you f’in cowards. RIP.”
One of his fans tweeted: “I was today years old when I learned Michael Nesmith’s mom invented ‘white out’ for typing. R.I.P. Michael Nesmith.” Another added: “Awe man… that part of our childhood. RIP Michael Nesmith.”
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