Michael Nesmith, Monkees Guitarist, ‘Different Drum’ Songwriter, Dead at 78

Michael Nesmith in his signature wool cap. Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Michael Nesmith, singer, songwriter, and lead guitarist for the Monkees, has died at the age of 78. According to a statement shared by his family with Rolling Stone, Nesmith died of “natural causes” in his home on the morning of Friday, December 10. “We ask that you respect our privacy at this time and we thank you for the love and light that all of you have shown him and us,” the statement reads.

Born in Houston in 1942, Nesmith was best known as a member of 1960s boy band the Monkees, alongside bandmates Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, and Peter Tork. Decades ahead of similar pop conceits like S Club 7 and the Cheetah Girls, the Monkees first formed as a fictional boy band within an eponymous Monkees sitcom while simultaneously becoming a major band in their own right. Nesmith wrote a number of songs for the Monkees, including “Listen to the Band,” “Mary, Mary,” and “The Girl I Knew Somewhere.” Prior to joining the Monkees, Nesmith wrote “Different Drum,” which ended up being recorded by Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys. The group also recorded music with Neil Young, Harry Nilsson, and the legendary Wrecking Crew session musicians.

After leaving the band in 1970, Nesmith formed country-rock outfit the First National Band. In 1982, he won the first-ever Grammy Award for Video of the Year, for his Elephant Parts home video. This awards category, which was meant to award excellence in long-format home videos, was discontinued when the MTV VMAs began in 1984. In 1984, Nesmith served as executive producer on the cult-classic film Repo Man. Later in life, Nesmith reunited with the Monkees for a handful of tours. They played their final show in Los Angeles on November 14.

Michael Nesmith, the Monkees Guitarist, Dead at 78