Davy Jones, the most famous member of the pop group the Monkees, died today from a heart attack. He was 66 years old.
While the Monkees had their real heyday before I was even born, this news saddened me. I have a special place in my heart for the Monkees. The band was assembled in 1966 for a TV show of the same name, an attempt to cash in on the popularity of the Beatles. The show focused on the band (Jones, Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith) living together and struggling to be successful with frequent vignettes to allow them to perform songs. The show lasted two seasons and produced a string of hits. The band continued to record until 1970 (though not necessarily with all the members) and then disbanded.
If that had been the end of their story, I probably wouldn’t have been particularly aware of the Monkees. But in 1986, in honor of their 20th anniversary, MTV and Nickelodeon (relatively new networks at the time) began to re-air the original series. And for whatever reason, a lot of kids (myself included) really took to the show. The songs were fun (especially the theme song) and it was a very sanitized portrayal of a rock band – there was no hint of the “sex, drugs and rock and roll” mentality. The Monkees were like big kids and completely non-threatening. And perhaps most importantly in an era before DVR and widespread VCRs and cable, the show was on right after school when there wasn’t a lot of competition. My brother and I really loved the show and listened to their cassette tapes endlessly. The Monkees are the soundtrack for a lot of our family road trips and vacations. They were one of the few common interests that my brother I, 6 year apart, could enjoy together. We even put together an act that we would trot out for family and friends where we would lip sync to some of the Monkees greatest hits. Thankfully, we did not own a camcorder growing up so there is not much evidence of these performances.
At the time, I didn’t quite understand that the show was a re-run and was confused how my mother seemed to know so much about a “new” band and show. And it came as quite a shock when, based on the resurgence they were enjoying from kids, the band went out on a reunion tour and I saw that Davy Jones and the rest of the Monkees were actually 20 years older than I expected. They put out a new album and there was even an attempt to launch a new TV (The New Monkees) with a new band and updated for the 80s. But by then Monkee-mania had run its course. The Monkees, with varying lineups, continued to tour, but would never again reach the same level of success.
Davy Jones was always the most visible of the Monkees, partially because of his guest appearance on a legendary episode of The Brady Bunch when Marcia promises that Jones will perform at their school dance. He would continue to make cameo appearances on television shows into the 90s.
Rest in peace Davy Jones. You will be missed