Friday, June 14, 2024

RIP Mike Nesmith of the Monkees, Songwriter, Guitarist Always Marched to His Own “Different Drum”


Mike Nesmith, the great singer songwriter of the Monkees, died this morning at age 78. His family said it was from natural causes but when Mike appeared with Micky Dolenz last month at New York’s Town Hall he was not well, and you could tell it was taking all of his energy to perform this Farewell Tour.

Mike wrote some of the Monkees songs during the group’s tenure but his most famous was a hit for Linda Ronstadt. “Different Drum” was about a woman who wanted to go her own way, but that was Nesmith himself. He marched to a different drum, separating himself from the Monkees legacy as much as he could and not appearing on many reunion tours or albums.

It was only this fall that Nesmith surprisingly went out on tour with Micky, the only other remaining member of the group. But he’d inherited a fortune from his mother in 1980. She was the inventor of Liquid Paper, which for decades before word processors was the only way to make corrections on documents. He used the money to invest in cool movies and stay above the fray.

Last year, Dolenz recorded a new album called “Dolenz Sings Nesmith,” with Mike’s son Christian producing, to showcase his catalog of songs. The album received rave reviews.

People of a certain age will always have an affection for the Monkees. They burst onto the scene in the mid 60s as a TV show about a struggling pop group in a style fashioned after the Beatles’ “A Hard Days Night.” They weren’t supposed to play their own instruments, but it turned out they could and eventually did. They were also gifted pop singers.

In the series, Mike had a carefully aloof attitude, always wearing a knit cap and a goofy grin, He wasn’t the leading man like Micky Dolenz or the boytoy like Davy Jones and wasn’t the shy guy like Peter Tork. He held himself out as kind of the egg head, maybe a little wiser than the rest. What a shame that he’s gone but what a gift he gave the fans by forcing himself to overcome health issues and do one victory lap before he left.

Our mutual friend, Sam Moore, of Sam & Dave, sent this:

“I had the great pleasure of appearing with Jr Walker as my partner playing  a “Swanky Mode” In the movie “Tapeheads” produced by a man who became a friend, Michael Nesmith. Michael had a vision and a great sense of music, humor and shtick. He put them all together with an incredible cast including John Cusack, Tim Robbins, Mary Crosby, Connie Stevens, Clu Gallagher, Doug McClure and believe it or not Don Cornelius to make that movie that we all believed should have been and still needs to be one of the “classic cult films“
I am deeply saddened to learn of his passing.
Hey hey Michael you’ll always be a Monkee! “

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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