Davy Jones, The Monkees’ lead singer and chief heartthrob of the ’60s TV phenomenon, died Wednesday of a massive heart attack at his home in Indiantown, Fla. He was 66.
With his British accent and trademark long hair, Jones was the Justin Bieber of his day, selected as America’s “dream prom date” for his TV appearances and singing lead on The Monkees’ classics “Daydream Believer” and “I Wanna Be Free.” Along with being The Cute One on “The Monkees” TV show, Jones was also The Content One.
“I just wanted to be in the show, fall in love twice in each episode and kiss the girls,” Jones told The Republican of Springfield, Mass., last month, in one of the star’s final interviews. “I had no ambition to be Steven Spielberg or Cecil B. DeMille.”
Of course, Jones, born in 1945 in Manchester, England, had plenty of other ambitions. He was a child actor who landed his first major role at the age of 11 on the British soap opera “Coronation Street.” At 16, he was playing the Artful Dodger in “Oliver!” in London and then on Broadway, a role that earned him a Tony nomination for best featured actor in a musical in 1963. “Oliver!” also landed Jones on the same “Ed Sullivan Show” episode when The Beatles made their debut in February 1964.
However, it was his role in “The Monkees” — a series meant to channel the energy and vitality of The Beatles‘ big screen hits like “Help!” and especially “A Hard Day’s Night” — that introduced Jones to the world.
“The Monkees” bowed Sept. 12, 1966 — four days after “Star Trek” launched — and was promptly trashed by some critics as a “Pre-Fab Four” gimmick engineered by rock producer and impresario Don Kirshner. However, Jones, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Mike Nesmith tapped into ’60s youth culture. Within two years, The Monkees racked up four No. 1 albums and five Top 3 singles — including the No. 1 songs “I’m a Believer,” “Last Train to Clarksville” and “Daydream Believer.” The group became so influential they attracted the attention of the FBI, and their songs were covered by artists ranging from Run-DMC to the Sex Pistols.
Tim Brooks, a TV historian and author of “The Complete Directory to Primetime,” said “The Monkees” “captured the imagination of a generation, and lived on and on and on.”
Jones never repeated the success of “The Monkees,” but did pop up in numerous shows, including “Love, American Style,” “My Two Dads” and even recently voiced a part in Disney Channel‘s “Phineas and Ferb.” But it was his appearance in a 1971 episode of “The Brady Bunch” to meet a love-struck Marcia (the president of his fan club) that resonated most. (He also made a cameo appearance in 1995′s “Brady Bunch Movie.”)
Jones helped The Monkees launch a comeback in 1986, when the TV show began airing again on MTV, and again in 1996. Last year, Jones, Dolenz and Tork toured to celebrate The Monkees’ 45th anniversary, which including shows at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury. Jones had lined up solo tour dates for most of 2012.
Wednesday, his former bandmates were coming to terms with the news of his sudden death. “I am in a state of shock and disbelief right now,” Dolenz wrote on Twitter.
Tork paid tribute to Jones on Facebook, writing, “His talent will be much missed; his gifts will be with us always.”
Nesmith wished Jones “safe travels.” “David’s spirit and soul live well in my heart, among all the lovely people, who remember with me the good times, and the healing times,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
According to Rhonda Irons of the Martin County Sheriff’s Office in Florida, Jones complained of breathing troubles early in the morning and was taken to Martin Health System hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The sheriff’s spokeswoman said there were no suspicious circumstances.
Jones is survived by his wife, Jessica.
AJC and AP