Peter Tork, co-founder of The Monkees, has died at the age of 77.
Tork’s sister, Anne Thorkelson confirmed news of her brother’s passing to The Washington Post. The cause of death was not immediately clear.
Initially conceived as America’s answer to The Beatles, The Monkees were assembled by veteran television producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider specifically for a television series, which aired from 1966 to 1968. However, the band’s popularity would ultimately grow far beyond the small screen; members gained control over musical output, and hits such as “I’m a Believer” and “Daydream Believer” helped the band push 50 million records worldwide.
It was Tork’s college friend, Stephen Stills, who got Tork a gig in the Monkees. Stills had auditioned for the TV series, but was turned down. Instead, producers were looking for something with an “open, Nordic look,” which led Stills to suggest Tork for the part.
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A proficient musician, Tork was the lone member of the band allowed to play an instrument — “third chair guitar” — on their first two albums. He played keyboards, bass guitar, banjo, harpsichord, and other instruments on later recordings.
Following The Monkees’ initial breakup in 1968, Tork pursued a solo career, collaborated with George Harrison on the soundtrack to the 1968 film Wonderwall, and launched a production company, which ultimately went belly up and left Tork bankrupt. As a result, he and his wife were forced to move into David Crosby’s basement.
Tork subsequently reunited with fellow Monkees Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz in 1985 in celebration of the band’s 20th anniversary. They continued to play shows together throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, and also recorded an album in 1996’s Justus, which also featured fourth Monkee Michael Nesmith. Following the passing of Jones in 2012, Tork, Dolenz, and Nesmith embarked on a tribute tour. In 2016, The Monkees released Good Times, which featured contributions from Rivers Cuomo, Ben Gibbard, Noel Gallagher, and Paul Weller.
In 2009, Tork was diagnosed with the rare tongue cancer adenoid cystic carcinoma, but he made a full recovery. He ceased touring altogether in 2016 due to unknown health issues. Update: According to a statement from his family, Tork “died peacefully this morning at a family home in Connecticut [after succumbing] to a 10-year bout with adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare cancer of the salivary glands.”