Davy Jones of the Monkees has died of an apparent heart attack at age 66. The singer, who had been on a solo tour this month, complained of chest pains last evening and was admitted to a hospital this morning in Stuart, Florida.
Jones was born in Manchester, England and started acting as a child. In 1964 he had the misfortune of appearing in the cast of Oliver! on the same episode of The Ed Sullivan Show where the Beatles made their debut. The next year he was cast in The Monkees, a comedy show/band inspired by the success of the Beatles. They were an instant hit in the ratings and the record shops, scoring massive singles with “Last Train to Clarksville,” “I’m a Believer,” “Stepping Stone” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday.” Jones – who played tambourine in the band – was the lead vocalist on the classics “Daydream Believer” and “I Wanna Be Free.” At the peak of their popularity in 1967 the group sold more albums than the Beatles.
The Monkees’ music was written by some of the best songwriters of the day, including Carole King and Neil Diamond. As the group grew more popular, they insisted on writing their own music and playing their own instruments. Although their later work has attracted a huge cult audience over the years, their mainstream success quickly dwindled and the group split in 1971. Jones went onto a solo career, and he memorably performed his song “Girl” on an episode of The Brady Bunch.
Jones returned to acting in the late 1970s when his solo career failed to take off, but he found it difficult to escape the shadow of the Monkees. By the mid-1980s Monkees mania was reborn when MTV and other stations began regularly airing old episodes of the TV show. The band (minus Mike Nesmith) reunited for a highly successful reunion tour in 1986. They toured off and on through 2001, when infighting led to another split. Last summer they patched things up for a 45th anniversary tour, though it was called short because of what guitarist Peter Tork called a “glitch.”
Nesmith posted a tribute to Jones on his Facebook page. “I will miss him, but I won’t abandon him to mortality,” he wrote. “I will think of him as existing within the animating life that insures existence. I will think of him and his family with that gentle regard in spite of all the contrary appearances on the mortal plane. David’s spirit and soul live well in my heart, among all the lovely people, who remember with me the good times, and the healing times, that were created for so many, including us. I have fond memories. I wish him safe travels.”