Lead Singer of Monkees Davy Jones Dies at 66

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Davy Jones, the heartthrob singer
who helped propel the made-for-TV rock band The Monkees to the top
of the pop charts as an American version of the Beatles, died
Wednesday. He was 66.

His publicist, Helen Kensick, confirmed Jones died of a heart
attack in Indiantown, where he had lived. Jones complained of
breathing troubles early in the morning and was taken to a hospital
where he was pronounced dead, said Rhonda Irons of the Martin
County Sheriff's Office. The sheriff's spokeswoman said there were
no suspicious circumstances.

Born in Manchester, England, Jones had stylishly long hair,
boyish good looks and a British accent that endeared him to legions
of screaming young fans after "The Monkees" premiered on CBS in
1966.

Aspirations of Beatles-like fame were never fully achieved,
however, as the TV show lasted just two years. But The Monkees made rock `n roll history as the band galvanized a wide American
following with love-struck hits such as "Daydream Believer" and
"I'm a Believer" that endure even today.

Jones was born on Dec. 30, 1945, and became a child star in his
native England who appeared on television and stage, including a
heralded role as "The Artful Dodger" in the play "Oliver."

He earned a Tony nomination at 16 when he reprised that role in
the show's Broadway production, a success that brought him to the
attention of Columbia Pictures/Screen Gems Television, which
created The Monkees.

The show, clearly patterned on the Beatle's film "A Hard Days
Night," chronicled the comic trials and tribulations of a rock
group whose four members lived together and traveled to gigs in a
tricked-out car called the Monkeemobile. Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork
and Micky Dolenz starred with him. Each part was loosely patterned
after one of the Beatles, with Jones in the Paul McCartney role for
The Monkees.

The first single, "Last Train to Clarksville," became a No. 1
hit. And the show caught on with audiences, featuring fast-paced,
helter-skelter comedy inspired as much by the Marx Brothers as the
Beatles.

It was a shrewd case of cross-platform promotion. As David
Bianculli noted in his "Dictionary of Teleliteracy," "The show's
self-contained music videos, clear forerunners of MTV, propelled
the group's first seven singles to enviable positions of the pop
charts: three number ones, two number twos, two number threes."

At 5-feet-3, Jones was by far the shortest member of the group -
a fact often made light of on the show. But with his youthful good
looks, he was also the group's heartthrob. And with the pronounced
accent that he never lost, Jones was in some ways the Monkees'
direct connection to Beatlemania, which was still sweeping the
United States when the television show "The Monkees" debuted.

Yet after the show's launch, The Monkees came under fire from
music critics when it was learned that session musicians - and not
the group's members - had played the musical instruments on their
recordings. They were derided as the "Prefab Four," an insulting
comparison to the Beatles' nickname, the "Fab Four."

In reality, Jones could play the drums and guitar, and although
Dolenz learned to play the drums after he joined the group, he
could also play guitar, as could Nesmith.

Nesmith also wrote several of The Monkees' songs, as well as
songs for others. Tork, who played bass and keyboards on the TV
show was a multi-instrumentalist.

The group eventually prevailed over the show's producers,
including music director Don Kirchner, and began to play their own
instrumentals. Regardless, the group was supported by enviable
talent.

Carole King and Gerry Goffin wrote "Pleasant Valley Sunday,"
and Neil Diamond penned "I'm a Believer." Musicians who played on
their records included Billy Preston, who later played with the
Beatles, Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, Ry Cooder and Neil Young.

The group also released the 1968 film "Head," derided at the
time as a psychedelic mishmash notable only for an appearance by
Jack Nicholson. It has since come to be considered a cult classic
by Monkees fans.

After two seasons, the TV series had flared out and was
cancelled after 58 episodes in the summer of 1968. But The Monkees
remained a nostalgia act for decades.

After the TV show ended, Jones continued to tour with the other
Monkees for a time, sometimes playing the drums at concerts when
Dolenz came up front to sing.

Many also remember Jones from a widely seen episode of "The
Brady Bunch" that aired in 1971, in which he makes an appearance
at Marcia Brady's school dance. In the episode, Marcia Brady,
president of her school's Davy Jones Fan Club, promised she could
get him to appear before her classmates.

The group eventually broke up over creative differences,
although it did reunite from time to time for brief tours over the
years, usually without Nesmith.

In 1987, Jones, Tork, and Dolenz recorded a new album, "Pool
It." And two years later, the group received a star on the
Hollywood Walk of Fame.

All four, however, came together for a 1996 album, "Justus,"
and a subsequent TV movie "Hey, Hey, It's The Monkees!" that saw
them still living in the same house and still traveling in the
Monkeemobile - just like old times.

Jones, who is survived by his wife Jessica, continued to make
appearances on television and stage later. But it was the fame of
The Monkees that pulled him back to that era time and time again.
On his website, he recalled during auditions for the show when all
four men finally were put together in a scene.

"That's it," he recalled everyone around him saying:
"Magic."


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