Peter Tork, a struggling musician who became an overnight teenage girl with the Monkees in the 1960s, died on Thursday in a family home in eastern Connecticut. He was 77.
His son, Ivan Iannoli, said the cause was complications of a rare cancer that was first diagnosed in 2009. Mr. Tork, who grew up in Connecticut, lived in The Mansfield, east of Hartford, according to The Hartford Courant .
The Monkees were an unabashedly manufactured band, created by Hollywood producers in the 1960s to take advantage of the amazing popularity of the Beatles. The members – Mr. Tork (the oldest, aged 24), Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Mike Nesmith – were cast like the stars of an NBC sitcom, "The Monkees" (1966-68), in which they performed and with which they dealt comical situations with childish irreverence, just as the Beatles had in their hit films "A Hard Day & # 39; s Night" and "Help!"
Mr. Tork was positioned as the goofy, the court jester. Director Bob Rafelson, one of the makers of the show, compared him to Harpo Marx.
Because they were made for television, not their own songs (which were left to professionals such as Gerry Goffin, Carole King and others) and did not play their own instruments (they play mimed on the camera), the Monkees were despised by many; if the Beatles were the Fab Four, the Monkees soon earned the mocking nickname the Prefab Four.
But they surprised many in the music industry, and perhaps even themselves, when they became popular, both on television and in the charts.
Their show won the Emmy Award for outstanding comic series in 1967, and the band's many hit records – including & # 39; Last Train to Clarksville & # 39 ;, & # 39; Daydream Believer & # 39 ;, & # 39; Pleasant Valley Sunday & # 39; and the infectious as simplistic & # 39; (theme of) The Monkees "(" Hey, hey, we are the Monkees / And people say we have Monkee nearby … ") – for a while they earned sales on same stratospheric level as the Beatles & # 39 ;.
Both Mr. Tork as Mr. Nesmith were accomplished musicians – Mr. Tork played various instruments – and Messrs Dolenz and Jones were seasoned singers. (As a child, Mr. Jones had played the Artful Dodger in "Oliver!" On Broadway.) But because studio musicians played the game on the first two albums of Monkees, the idea remained that they were not a real band.
That started to change in 1967, when the group released its brand album "Headquarters", on which they played most of the instruments themselves and wrote some of the songs. Mr. Tork wrote a number of them together, and he shared the lead vocals with Mr. Jones about the melancholy ballad "Shades of grey."
(Peter Tork singing was a rarity on Monkees albums – he was by far the weakest singer in the group – but he had a few memorable, often peppered with humor, starting with "Your Auntie Grizelda" on the band's second album , "More of the Monkees.")
The Monkees only recorded three years before they broke up; their popularity faded after their TV show was canceled and Mr. Tork left the band in 1969.
But the group enjoyed a revival in the 1980s and was reunited for numerous concerts and tours, although mostly without Mr. Nesmith.
Mr. Tork recorded his first solo album in 1994, "Stranger Things Have Happened,". Later he formed a blues band, Shoe Suede Blues, with which he continued to perform and record until recently. The band's newest album, "Relax Your Mind", was released last year.
"The blues is about community," Mr. Tork told The Courant, who explained his genre circuit. & # 39; Not about how lonely I am, but everyone has been lonely. & # 39;
Peter Halsten Thorkelson was born on February 13, 1942 in Washington, the son of Halsten John Thorkelson, an economics professor, and Virginia Hope (Straus) Thorkelson. The family moved to Connecticut, where Peter graduated from high school in Storrs. He attended Carleton College in Minnesota, but left before graduating and moving to New York, where he performed in folklore clubs in Greenwich Village and met another upcoming musician, Stephen Stills.
In California, where both had moved, Mr. Stills the Monkees. When that did not work, some sources say that Mr. Stills was rejected because he had bad teeth; Mr. Stills himself said that he had turned down the job because he wanted to write songs for the show, but that would mean that he had turned in his music releases – he advised Mr. Tork, because people had always said the two were alike.
Mr. Tork left the show business shortly after he left the Monkees and at one point gave high school in Santa Monica, California. There were financial and also personal problems; he treated alcoholism and drug abuse and in 1972 served a short prison sentence for hashish property.
Later in his career, he made guest appearances on a handful of television series, including & # 39; The King of Queens & # 39; and & # 39; 7th Heaven & # 39 ;. His last film role was in & # 39; I Filmed Your Death & # 39 ;, a horror drama that is yet to be released.
Mr. Tork reunited with his colleague Monkees for a world tour in 2011 and with Mr. Dolenz and Mr. Nesmith in 2012 for a tour with a tribute to Mr. Jones, he died that year. In recent years, the remaining Monkees have released two albums.
Mr. Nesmith and Mr. Dolenz set off again last year, without Mr. Tork, billed for a tour as "The Monkees Present: The Mike & Micky Show." (That tour was interrupted when Mr. Nesmith underwent heart surgery but resumed this year.)
Mr Tork's marriages with Jody Babb, Reine Stewart and Barbara Iannoli ended in divorce. In addition to his son, he is survived by his fourth wife, Pamela Grapes, whom he married in 2014; two daughters, Hallie Iannoli and Erica Thorkelson; a sister, Anne Thorkelson; a brother, Nick Thorkelson; and three grandchildren. His brother, Christopher Thorkelson, died for him.
Like many other artists, Mr. Tork concluded that happiness was only achieved by doing the work. "It's about being able to play the music full-time," he told the Los Angeles Times in 1992. "It's no longer about the following, the game of fame. A little fame is nice, but I've had enough, thanks "