Michael Nesmith, Monkees Guitarist, Dead at 78

His long career included forays into film and books as well

The Monkees
American pop group The Monkees performing at Wembley Empire Pool, London, 2nd July 1967. Left to right: Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork, Mike Nesmith and Davy Jones.
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Few musicians have had as wide-ranging a career as Michael Nesmith. He first arrived on the scene as a member of The Monkees — and guided the band from something manufactured into a group with a more personal and distinctive sound. (A 2016 article at Pitchfork dubbed him “the lone figure in the group that even its detractors will admit is cool.”) After leaving the band, he went on to have a long solo career, make a foray into the film and video world and engage in other pursuits, including off-road driving.

Rolling Stone reports that Nesmith died on Friday morning at his home, according to a statement from his family. “With Infinite Love we announce that Michael Nesmith has passed away this morning in his home, surrounded by family, peacefully and of natural causes,” the announcement read.

Multiple generations of music lovers came of age to the music of The Monkees — first, when the band had their heyday in the 1960s, and again when the show made a return to the airwaves in the 1980s. There are numerous ways for the band to be remembered, from their early hits to their move to writing their own songs to the creation of the film Head, described by The Guardian in 2011 as “a fourth-wall-shattering, stream-of-consciousness black comedy that mocks war, America, Hollywood, television, the music business and the Monkees themselves.”

After leaving the Monkees, Nesmith went on to form the First National Band. AllMusic called their debut, Magnetic South, “a minor masterpiece of country-rock.” He went on to write several novels, as well as a memoir, Infinite Tuesday: An Autobiographical Riff. Writing about Nesmith’s memoir in 2017 for the Los Angeles Times, Randy Lewis noted that “the book reads like the chronicle of a relentless seeker rather than the diary of a celebrity.”

That restlessness pushed Nesmith to a host of unexpected places — he was also an executive producer on cult films Tapeheads and Repo Man, among others. But his penchant for risks paid off more often than not — and he made a lot of great music along the way.

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