Davy Jones, lead singer of the made-for-TV band The Monkees and first crush of millions of girls worldwide, died of a heart attack in Florida Wednesday. He was 66 years old.
Most of his fans first heard of Davy Jones in 1966, when the Monkees television program invaded living rooms worldwide. In reality, the then 21-year-old actor and singer from Manchester in the United Kingdom was a show business veteran. He got his start as a teen actor on British television, and later performed in the West End and Broadway casts of the musical “Oliver.”
While appearing in that show, Davy Jones found himself on The “Ed Sullivan Show” in the U.S. the same night that millions of people tuned in to see the Beatles’ American TV debut. In later years, Jones often told the story of hearing hundreds of teenagers screaming as the Beatles played, and deciding then and there that he wanted to be a pop star.
Within two years, he was. And, almost 50 years later, the theme song to the television program that made Davy Jones a household name is still burned into the brains of baby boomers around the world.
The Monkees television show was developed to cash in on the success of the Beatles film “A Hard Day’s Night.” Running for only two years, it made stars of Jones and his bandmates Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork, and Micky Dolenz. Jones played the part of “the cute one.” A quick look at Twitter and Facebook messages that have popped up since his passing confirm that Davy is remembered decades later as a first crush and teen heartthrob.
The continued success and beloved status of the Monkees is something that Davy Jones didn’t take lightly, or for granted. In a recent interview, Jones talked appreciatively about his longtime fans.
“I love the reaction of the audience," he said. "I’m looking out there, and people are actually singing along. I think that makes it for me. I mean, the fact that the songs are recognizable, we do them the way we did them.”
While the Monkees were often derided for not being a “real band,” just four actors and singers thrown together for a television program, no one can discount their success. They sold millions of records and helped further the careers of their songwriters. The Monkees had number one hits with **John Stewart’s "Daydream Believer," Neil Diamond's "I'm a Believer," and Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart's "Last Train to Clarksville." Davy Jones sang lead on several of the Monkees’ bigger hits, including another now classic Neil Diamond song, “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You.”
Looking back, it’s easy to say that the Monkees’ songs would be successful. After all, they had a weekly television program and millions of devoted fans. In reality, the Monkees sold millions of records because they released good songs by great writers and recorded them with some of Los Angeles' top studio musicians. Within a year of their debut single, the Monkees released four albums, all of which hit number one and continue to sell well today.
Though the Monkees broke up soon after their television show ended, the ensuing years brought a number of reunions. Last year, Davy, Micky, and Peter briefly toured the U.S. and Britain before mysteriously canceling their remaining dates.
In his post-Monkee life, Davy Jones was an actor and avid horseman. He also continued to tour, with his final New York City performance occurring 11 days before his death of an apparent heart attack at his home in Florida. Davy Jones was 66 years old when he died. Thanks to television and hit singles, however, fans will forever remember him as a cute 21-year-old pop star.
**In an earlier version of our story, we incorrectly credited John Stewart for writing "Last Train To Clarksville" and not crediting him for writing "Daydream Believer." VOA regrets the error.