Say what you will about the Monkees. Yes, they were a band made for a television show. Yes, they didn’t play on all of their early stuff (because of the TV show’s filming schedule preventing it). But they were a talented band. They did push for, and eventually did play, not just sing, their own songs. And even though they had an incredible group of talent writing their songs (Neil Diamond, Carole King, and Neil Sedaka among them) they started penning their own.
Sure, they made their name as TV stars, but the Monkees considered themselves first and foremost, to be musical artists. Change that…they were musical artists. They were also a significant part of my childhood.
Peter Torke, the Monkees’ bassist and one of its vocalists, died today from a rare form of cancer. Somehow, that hit me just as hard as the loss of Bowie or Tom Petty. Maybe the Monkees weren’t as trend setting or as influential as those two, but it still hurt just as much.
As any artist does, the Monkees became a part of me; they shaped me. Yeah, their 1960’s television show, styled after the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” movie, and their debut eponymous album are what really grabbed me initially, but it was their songs that came after that grabbed and held on to my interest.
“Mary, Mary”, “I’m a Believer”, and “Steppin’ Stone” are just a glimpse of what the Monkees had to offer after their initial impact. Sure, the Monkees were a commercial creation for television’s sake, but their sustained success was because of their collective musical talent. Peter Torke was perhaps more significant in that than any of the other band’s members. I will miss him.