The Monkees member Peter Tork has passed away at the age of 77. The multi-instrumentalist played both bass and keyboards in the band, as well as providing vocals. Although the fictional group was created for TV, they had a string of very real hits throughout the late ‘60s, including “I’m a Believer," “Last Train to Clarksville,” and “Daydream Believer”.
Peter Halsten Thorkelson was born in Washington D.C. in 1942. He began playing music at a very young age, but it was a strange twist of fate that landed him a role in The Monkees. Fellow musician Stephen Stills auditioned for the part first, and although he didn't get it, he did recommend that his friend Peter give it a try. Tork was joined by two other Americans, Mickey Dolenz and Michael Nesmith, as well as an Englishman, Davy Jones - who passed away in 2012. They were brought together to star in a television series of the same name that would follow the misadventures of the titular band.
The announcement of Peter Tork’s passing came from his official Facebook page, beginning with, “It is with beyond-heavy and broken hearts that we share the devastating news that our friend, mentor, teacher, and amazing soul, Peter Tork, has passed from this world.” Read the full statement here:
Tork’s fellow surviving Monkees have expressed their grief over losing their friend and bandmate. Mickey Dolenz tweeted, “There are no words right now ... heart broken over the loss of my Monkee brother, Peter Tork.” Michael Nesmith released a statement which said, "Peter Tork died this AM. I am told he slipped away peacefully. Yet, as I write this my tears are awash, and my heart is broken. Even though I am clinging to the idea that we all continue, the pain that attends these passings has no cure. It's going to be a rough day.” Other celebrities have taken to Twitter as well to offer heartfelt words for Tork. Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, Bangles front woman Susanna Hoffs, Carole King, and former Brady Bunch star Maureen McCormick have all posted responses to the loss.
I’m sad to hear about Peter Tork passing. I thought The Monkees were great and Peter will be missed. Love & mercy to Peter’s family, friends and fans. pic.twitter.com/NquzjTmtFx— Brian Wilson (@BrianWilsonLive) February 21, 2019
Heartbroken to hear of the passing of the sweet Peter Tork💔 Such a fan of Peter’s music and #TheMonkees . His music has brought such joy into this world and will live on forever. My heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. We will miss you. Rest In Peace Peter. pic.twitter.com/55h2ku632N— Maureen McCormick (@MoMcCormick7) February 21, 2019
The Monkees may have been the first manufactured boy band, but they also outsold both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones combined in 1967. Their first four albums all hit number one on the Billboard Charts. The Monkees only ran for two seasons, but became the first music act to win an Emmy during that time and spawned a feature film, Head. The Jimi Hendrix Experience even played their first U.S. show as the Monkees’ opening act in 1967. Tork was the first member to leave the band in 1968, but continued to participate in reunions, beginning in the '80s.
Tork has appeared in television shows, such as Boy Meets World and 7th Heaven, and even tried his hand as an advice columnist. However, he also steadily continued to play music in some form since he left The Monkees. Tork has performed with several bands and released a well-received solo album. He was diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma in 2009 and has been battling the cancer ever since. The Monkees may have been a fictional band, but their hits, career, and massive following were very real. Fans continue to have fond memories of the TV series, as well as its unforgettable soundtrack. They were four guys who were basically cast for their looks and musical skills, but it was the chemistry between them that made The Monkees so successful. Peter Tork will be sorely missed.