Michael Nesmith, singer, guitarist and songwriter for The Monkees who went on to become a respected songwriter, producer and a pioneer in the nascent field of music video, has died at the age of 78.
Nesmith's family told Rolling Stone in a statement that Nesmith had died Friday morning "in his home, surrounded by family, peacefully and of natural causes."
The Monkees' manager, Andrew Sandoval, added in a statement shared to Facebook, "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."
"That tour was a true blessing for so many. And in the end I know that Michael was at peace with his legacy which included songwriting, producing, acting, direction and so many innovative ideas and concepts," Sandoval continued. "I am positive the brilliance he captured will resonate and offer the love and light towards which he always moved."
The death of Nesmith, known for his omnipresent wool hat, leaves Micky Dolenz as the only living member of The Monkees. Fellow members Davy Jones and Peter Tork died in 2012 and 2019, respectively.
Along with Jones, Tork and Dolenz, Nesmith answered an ad which led them to be cast in "The Monkees" TV show, which ran from 1966-68 on NBC. Initially dubbed the "Pre-Fab Four," The Monkees soon out-paced The Beatles on the charts, scoring No. 1 albums and a string of hit singles. However, the four Monkees -- especially Nesmith -- were frustrated by not having complete creative control over their music.
When The Monkees finally gained that control, their chart success continued for a while longer, but after the show in ended in 1968, the group split in 1969. Nesmith then formed the First National Band and released three albums that are now considered pioneering examples of country rock. He also had success as a producer and as a songwriter. He wrote the hit "Different Drum" for Linda Ronstadt's band The Stone Poneys, plus songs for The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Lynn Anderson.
In 1974, Nesmith founded the multimedia firm Pacific Arts, which released records, tapes and cassettes, but then moved into the new field of home video. Nesmith created a video clip for his song "Rio," and then turned the idea into a TV show called "PopClips" for Nickelodeon. When PopClips was sold in 1980, the idea was developed into MTV. Ironically, it was MTV that spurred a Monkees revival in the '80s by re-running the old NBC series.
Nesmith continued to work in the video field and won the first-ever Grammy awarded for music video for his 1982 music and comedy collection, Elephant Parts. That led to a 1985 series on NBC called "Television Parts," which featured then-unknowns like Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Whoopi Goldberg and Garry Shandling.
Nesmith, who'd inherited half his mother's $50 million estate in 1980 -- she invented Liquid Paper -- didn't join Tork, Dolenz and Jones for the successful 1986 Monkees tour and subsequent 1987 album, "Pool It!" But in 1996, he rejoined his bandmates for their album "Justus," and participated in a TV special and U.K. tour. After Jones died in 2012, Nesmith continued to work with Dolenz and Tork.
Nesmith's final show took place last month at LA's Greek Theater as part of a farewell tour he did with Dolenz.