He traveled to the beat of a different drum

“I have no more than I did before, but now I’ve got all that I need, for I love you and I know you love me.”

It was clear from the start that Mike Nesmith was the most talented of the Monkees. For one thing, he was a songwriter, not just a musician, and he wrote some of the band’s best songs, like “Papa Gene’s Blues” on their first album (quoted above), and “Mary Mary” and “The Kind of Girl I Could Love” on More of the Monkees, and my personal favorite, “You Just May Be The One,” and lots more, on Headquarters, etc., etc.

And his songs transcended the Monkees. “Different Drum” was Linda Ronstadt’s breakout hit. “Some of Shelley’s Blues” and “Propinquity” are among the anchors of Uncle Charlie and His Dog Teddy, the best album the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band made that didn’t have Doc Watson playing along. Of course “Joanne” and the rest of the First National Band catalog are gems.

I am unusually sad about Michael Nesmith dying. I know we all die, I just wish certain people didn’t have to. 

I roll out a number of tired old chestnut cliches at times like this, like the great artists never really die, especially in these high-tech times when his voice and performances are preserved in nearly immortal digital form. And that much is true.

Maybe it’s that when the people you genuinely admired as a youth die, it strikes close to home. If even Mike Nesmith can die, I guess it’s really true about the rest of us.

Or maybe it’s simply coming to the end of an amazing story. The Monkees did not have to be as good as they were. They could have been four actors playing a part, having a hit TV show and moving on. But they decided to make music that has endured for more than 50 years after the show went off the air. Nesmith and fellow survivor Micky Dolenz were still drawing packed houses a couple of months ago when they closed their Farewell Tour.

Mike Nesmith is the reason why. The other three guys were incredibly talented, and the four of them meshed in a way that proved the casting crew to be geniuses. But Nesmith was the real deal, an authentic original, and it was great fun watching what he could do.

Thanks, Mike, wherever you are. 

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P.S. In case you’re keeping track, this is the 500th consecutive day that I have given you a blog post in this space. You’re welcome.

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