RIP Davy Jones of the Monkees, 1945-2012

Forget for a moment the bitterness and anger that flowed through the Monkees camp in recent years; the unexpected death today of DAVY JONES at age 66, the sole British member of the manufactured-for-television outfit, is a sad moment in the annals of post-Paul Anka/pre-Bieber teen-idolatry.

Jones, of course, was the most beloved mate on the Monkees, a ridiculously scatterbrained late-'60s television stepchild of the similarly tongue-in-cheek 1964 Beatles film A Hard Day's Night. Cast as actors first with musicianship an afterthought, Mickey Dolenz, Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork and Jones eventually learned to pull off songs in a live setting adequately enough to satiate the screaming fans eager to be hoodwinked into taking a low-rent Fab Four over the real thing as long as it slightly sounded and somewhat looked the part. The singles "I'll Be True to You," "Star Collector" and the number one hit "Daydream Believer" all featured Jones on lead vocals; he was the variety shop cute one.

The Manchester-born Jones came up as a singer after fellow Manc notables Herman's Hermits and before Joy Division, but will be remembered best for his pint-sized prettiness that made young girls swoon. Most notorious was Santa Monica native Marcia Brady, who as a regional "Davy Jones Fan Club" president in 1971 made news when she somehow managed to get the singer to not only perform at her junior high prom, but be her date as well.

Jones at that point had ceased to be a Monkee, as the show was off the air, and he was having a go as a solo-heartthrob who might've given Paul Weller a run for his money fashion-wise were he born 15 years later.

Throughout the '70s and '80s, Jones split time as a stage performer and a musician, while occasionally reprising his most well-known role as "Monkee Davy Jones," buoyed in part by the return of the show in the mid- to late-'80s to nostalgia-centric television like Nick-at-Nite. He played himself happily on programs from My Two Dads to SpongeBob SquarePants. Though embracing his past so enthusiastically, there was never a proper reunion period for The Monkees. Attempts bombed routinely as the most talented member musically, Nesmith, refused to participate because he wanted to be taken seriously; this despite the fact that he made his bones on the Monkees while wearing a wool hat with a puff ball on it.

Relocating to rural Pennsylvania, Jones raised and raced horses while sporadically touring both solo and with Dolenz and Tork. The three got together last year as the Monkees one last time, again sans Nesmith, for a 45th anniversary trek that was dragged down by reports of bad blood boiling over into rehearsals, possibly as overdue fallout from 2009 when Jones said he had "no time" for his former cast mates.

But hey, hey; Jones will always be a Monkee, and now hopefully he's in a better place, too busy singing, to put anybody down.

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