Michael Nesmith, the singer and guitarist best known for his time with 1960s pop group The Monkees, died at 78 on Friday, according to reports. The singer’s manager told CNN he died of heart failure at his home in Carmel Valley along California’s central coast.
Nesmith’s passing leaves drummer Micky Dolenz the sole surviving member of the pop group’s original lineup. Dolenz issued a heartfelt tribute to his one-time bandmate on Twitter Friday morning.
“I’m heartbroken. I’ve lost a dear friend and partner,” wrote Dolenz, 76. “I’m so grateful that we could spend the last couple of months together doing what we loved best – singing, laughing, and doing shtick. I’ll miss it all so much. Especially the shtick. Rest in peace, Nez. All my love.”
The Monkees singer’s family issued a statement to Rolling Stone. “With infinite love, we announce that Michael Nesmith has passed away this morning in his home, surrounded by family, peacefully and of natural causes,” wrote the 78-year-old’s loved ones. “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.”
Nesmith and Dolenz had only recently wrapped their farewell Monkees tour last month. Within hours of the announcement of his death, fans posted footage from the tour’s final concert, including what would become Michael Nesmith’s final performance.
Andrew Sandoval, touring manager for the group, paid homage to Nesmith on Twitter Friday morning. “It is with deep sadness that I mark the passing of Michael Nesmith,” he wrote. “We shared many travels and projects together over the course of 30 years, which culminated in a Monkees farewell tour that wrapped up only a few weeks ago.”
Monkees Singer Michael Nesmith Remembered
For fans of The Monkees, Nesmith is remembered for his quiet demeanor and iconic knit beanie, which became a symbol for himself and the band. Nesmith’s songwriting style — his portfolio including “Mary, Mary,” “Circle Sky,” and “Listen to the Band” — gave a harder, rock-inspired edge to a group that often struggled to be perceived as more than a boy band.
The Monkees were infamously formed as a commercial vehicle, individually plucked by NBC executives to be cast on a TV show as a fictional band. The venture, cooked up almost exclusively to cash in on the success of more traditional rock groups like The Beatles, earned the band derision and occasionally hostility from fellow musicians and the broader public.
But behind the scenes, Michael Nesmith was known to push for the group’s creative independence. He was instrumental in the 1967 ouster of producer Don Kirshner, which gave The Monkees the artistic control over their releases that eluded them for most of their peak.
“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,” Nesmith told Rolling Stone in a 2012 interview. “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?”
Nesmith continued to tour with his surviving bandmates until shortly before his death. On his Instagram, he appeared to be living a modest, retired lifestyle in his final years: cooking, spending time with loved ones by the pool, and occasionally playing music.