Peter Tork, Monkees bassist, dies, aged 77 | News | DW | 21.02.2019
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Peter Tork, Monkees bassist, dies, aged 77

Tork was most famous for his role as the lovable comic character in the 1960s American TV boy band the Monkees. A cause of death was not given, though he had been previously diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.

Peter Tork, an accomplished musician best known as the comedic bass player and keyboarder for the 1960s US band the Monkees, died Thursday at the age of 77.

Though the cause of his death was not made public, Tork was diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare form of tongue cancer, in 2009. 

Born Peter Halsten Thorkelson on February 13, 1942, in Washington DC, he began his career in New York's Greenwich Village folk music scene. He was an accomplished musician in his own right when he auditioned for a role in the Monkees, the band that would later bring him fame.

Lovable goof in a wildly popular boy band

The project was the brainchild of US television executives who were keen on launching an American version of the Beatles. The Monkees had a successful television show centered on the antics of a crazy young Los Angeles band looking to get famous.

The show was noted for its innovative film techniques and its comedic bent. It won two Emmy Awards in 1967, including Outstanding Comedy Series.  

The Monkees (picture-alliance/Globe-Zuma)

Tork, Dolenz, Jones and Nesmith (l to r) enjoyed success on TV as well as selling tens of millions of chart-topping records

The band, which also included Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith and Mickey Dolenz, was popular beyond television as well, namely for its music. In 1967, the Monkees sold some 35 million albums, more than the Beatles and the Rolling Stones combined.

Four of the bands first six albums reached number one on the US charts as well as the top five in the UK. Hits such as "I'm a Believer," "Last Train to Clarksville" and "Daydream Believer" have enjoyed enduring popularity.

On-again off-again relationship with the Monkees

Tork left the band in 1968 after completing the psychedelic film "Head" and would not return until the 1987 recording of "Pool It!" The 1996 album "Justus" was the only album after 1968 to feature the original line up. The band's 2016 album "Good Times!" — commemorating their 50th anniversary — received critical acclaim and featured songs written by Noel Gallagher, Paul Weller and a number of other songwriters. 

Tork pursued a number of solo projects after his departure from the band, yet none of these could match his early fame.

'Peter will be missed'

His passing was met with condolences and warm words from a number of colleagues, including a Twitter tribute from Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, who wrote: "I'm sad to hear about Peter Tork passing. I thought The Monkees were great and Peter will be missed."  

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