Sad Monkee business: Remembering Peter Tork

Two members of TV and music quartet now remain

Hey, hey, they were The Monkees.

And as of this week, two of the four remain.

Half of the iconic 1960s music and television team now survives, since Peter Tork died Thursday (Feb. 21). Davy Jones predeceased him, leaving Michael “Mike” Nesmith and Micky Dolenz as the survivors of the clearly Beatles-inspired quartet that scored catchy hits on the charts (“Last Train to Clarksville,” the Neil Diamond-written “I’m a Believer,” etc.) while simultaneously showing how unconventional a television series of that era could be.

The Monkees were made for TV, literally, but Tork was an actual bass-guitar and keyboard player who tried out for the NBC show at the suggestion of Stephen Stills … who would be part of his own famous foursome, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Despite (or along with) the on-screen Monkee hijinks, Tork’s mind was seriously on the music, as evidenced by such ideas of his as the piano opening of the John Stewart-composed hit “Daydream Believer.”

At the peak of their popularity, The Monkees had a schedule that was demanding — to put it mildly – between doing the show (which has been released on DVD), recording and touring. It also yielded the surreal 1968 film “Head” (occasionally shown by Turner Classic Movies) and a similarly themed TV special, but Tork had had it after several years and bought his way out of the remainder of his Monkee contract.

He then began working with his own group and also tried to launch his own multimedia company, but those efforts didn’t come remotely close to what he experienced during his Monkees tenure. Tork continued to make the occasional recording and appearance, including in a “Win a Date With Peter Tork” segment very early in the run of “Late Night With David Letterman.”

In the mid-1980s, Tork reunited with Dolenz and Jones for a profitable tour, then Nesmith rejoined them to record again 10 years later. Their paths would continue to cross in various combinations on different ventures, then Tork, Dolenz and Nesmith toured together in 2012 – partially in memory of Jones. Tork’s final Monkees-related endeavor was a 2016 tour with Dolenz, with Nesmith also participating in some of those shows.

They may have gotten “the funniest looks from everyone we meet,” as their well-known theme song suggested, but The Monkees made their mark … and Peter Tork can be remembered as a major contributor, both behind and in front of the spotlight, to keeping their place in entertainment history secure.

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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