Singer-songwriter Davy Jones, best known for his stint in The Monkees, died today in his sleep at his home in Indiantown, Florida of a massive heart attack. He was 66 years old. While primarily associated with The Monkees and their eponymous television show, Jones enjoyed a solo career arguably more successful than the other members of the band.
Jones started as an actor, with bit parts on Coronation Street and Z-Cars. Everything changed, however, when his mother died. Only 14, he was forced to support himself, and temporarily left acting to train as a jockey. A few years later a friend approached Jones's jockey teacher, Basil Foster, asking if anyone would be a good fit for a role in a West End production of Oliver! The diminutive Jones, then 18, landed his big break playing the Artful Dodger. In 1964, he appeared along with the rest of the cast on the same episode of The Ed Sullivan Show that featured The Beatles debut.
The Monkees, however, are the band he will always be associated with. The band's tale is a very L.A. story. Assembled for a television show, they quickly grew too big for their britches. They feuded fiercely with producer Don Kirschner for creative control, eventually winning it. While Kirschner selected Jones and the rest of the band for their acting abilities, The Monkees had other ideas. More of the Monkees, released in 1967, was the last record produced under the watchful eye of Kirschner. For his part, Kirschner was so incensed at the group's rebellion that his next project -- The Archies -- would only exist in animated form.
The Monkees went on to release more records and a film titled Head. Directed by Bob Rafelson and co-written by Rafelson and Jack Nicholson, the 1968 movie was given its title so that sequels could come "from the people who gave you Head." A dark and bizarre tripfest, the film was too adult for The Monkees target audience of teenyboppers, though the band counted The Beatles and The Who among their sympathizers and admirers. Head tanked.
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Post-Monkees, Jones participated in a band made up of fellow Monkee Mickey Dolenz and Monkees' songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, called Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart. He also returned to his pre-Monkees acting career, with appearances on My Two Dads, The Brady Bunch and The New Scooby Doo Movies. He also participated in the various and sundry Monkees reunions over the decades.
But Davy Jones was more than just an actor or a musician or a Monkee -- he was a cultural icon. His appearance in The Brady Bunch Movie is arguably the best moment in the film. Even before retro kitsch saw a resurgence of interest, Jones had his image aped in the form of Star Trek's Pavel Chekov. In addition to a corpus of gorgeous pop songs, he leaves behind a widow and four daughters.
If history is just, he will be remembered as a musical craftsman and fighter for the rights of artists against studios. Whatever the case, he will be sorely missed.