RIP Peter Tork, 1942-2019


What would have happened if starmakers had cast the Monkees differently when the made-for-tv group debuted in 1966? Those of us old enough to recall know that the reluctant Monkee, Michael Nesmith, teamed up with zany vocalist Micky Dolenz, token Brit Davy Jones and scatter-brained Peter Tork for an unlikely but meteoric musical comedy success story.

Peter Tork

Tork passed away yesterday at age 77. He was and remains the most under-rated member of the group, and was a terrific bassist and lead guitar player. After the Monkees, his session playing included recording with Beatle George Harrison. Enough said? The kid could flat play.

Tork was brought to the attention of Monkee creators/producers by Stephen Stills, another aspiring artist and future superstar. Stills wasn’t picked, but Tork was cast as a Monkee and with Nesmith, Dolenz and Jones would tape 50-plus Emmy Award-winning episodes of their 30-minute program in 1966 and 1967.

Allowed only to sing on their first two studio albums, the Monkees soon acquired creative control. They turned out some outstanding tracks on critically praised LPs, but a “manufactured group” reputation followed them. They released eight albums in he ’60s, then several more in later years that included a live concert and a Christmas album.

The Monkees

If put to a popular fan vote, the Monkees would be hands-down locks for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But they have thus far been denied by judges with noses to the sky and deaf ears. Davy Jones passed away in 2012, and now Peter Tork is gone. OK, they weren’t the Beatles or Stones or Eagles. But the Monkees were reliably strong on stage, enormously influential on the small screen, and undeniably popular with record-buying fans, if not with snooty Rolling Stone editors.

Buffalo Springfield, 1967. Standing, l to r: Neil Young, Richie Furay, Stephen Stills, Dewey Martin … and Bruce Palmer.

While the Monkees have been overlooked by the Rock Hall of Fame, the same is not true of that guy who was overlooked by the Monkees, Stephen Stills. He’s been enshrined three times and counting — with Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash & (sometimes) Young, and as an individual — and is deserving of a fourth with Manassas.

Peter Tork death was caused by complications of a long battle with a rare salivary-gland cancer. Rest in peace.

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