Peter Tork, a bassist and singer with '60s teen sensations the Monkees, died Thursday. He was 77.
Tork's sister, Anne Thorkelson, confirmed his death to The Washington Post without providing a cause. He had been diagnosed with a rare cancer of the tongue in 2009.
The Monkees (Tork center) on their hit series at the height of "Monkees Mania"
A Facebook statement from Tork's family read:
"We are all saddened to share the news that Peter Thorkelson — friend, father, husband, grandfather, philosopher, goofball, entertainer — died peacefully this morning at a family home in Connecticut. Peter succumbed to a 10 year bout with adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare cancer of the salivary glands. Peter's energy, intelligence, silliness, and curiosity were traits that for decades brought laughter and enjoyment to millions, including those of us closest to him. Those traits also equipped him well to take on cancer, a condition he met with unwavering humor and courage.
"We are all still raw, and still have much to process, but we are also feeling appreciation for Peter's contributions. We are grateful that we have an extended support network thanks to the attentive energy and dedication of Peter's fans worldwide. We want those fans to know with absolute certainty that your spirit and goodwill fed Peter with continued energy and force (and of course humor).
"With that, we ask that our family have time and space to grieve in privacy.
"We are asking fans who would like to make contributions in Peter's name to donate to the scholarship fund at The Institute for The Musical Arts in Massachusetts, a nonprofit that provides young women with music education, music recording, and music community. More info can be found here: https://www.ima.org/help-out/in-the-name-of-our-mothers/."
Songwriter Carole King was one of the first stars to express condolences.
Peter Halsten Thorkelson was born February 13, 1943, in Washington, D.C. As a teenager, he studied music, later moving to NYC's Greenwich Village, becoming a part of its folk-music scene. He moved to Los Angeles, answering an ad seeking "4 Insane Boys, Ages 17-21" for what would turn out to be the Beatles knock-off group the Monkees. The boy band's four members — Tork, Michael Nesmith, Davy Jones and Micky Dolez — were initially kept away from meaningful creative contributions to their music, which was largely written by such hitmakers as Carole King, Neil Sedaka and Neil Diamond.
The Monkees may have been cooked up as a cash-in, but its members flexed their power as they took off, eventually wresting control of their output, led by multi-instrumentalist Tork.
Left: Tork & fellow Monkee Micky Dolenz. Right: Tork with late Monkee Davy Jones.
The group scored four #1 studio albums, one after the other, and enjoyed hit singles with "Last Train to Clarksville" (1966, #1), "I'm a Believer" (1966, #1), "A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You" (1967, #2), "Pleasant Valley Sunday" (1967, #3), "Daydream Believer" (1967, #1), "Valleri" (1968, #3) and others, including the #20 hit "That Was Then, This Is Now" (1986), released well after their initial success.
The group's broadly comic TV series "The Monkees" (1966-1968) was a short-lasting sensation, but also an Emmy winner. On it, Tork played dumb; in life, he was anything but.
Tork bolted the group after their psychedelic film "Head" (1968), written by Jack Nicholson, crashed and burned. He was a member of the band Release, did time in jail on a minor drug charge, worked as a teacher and a singing waiter, and was open about his long struggle with alcoholism.
The original Monkees lineup receiving their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2000
Tork did rejoin the Monkees in the '80s, taking part in reunion tours ever since. On his own, he released the positively reviewed solo album "Stranger Things Have Happened" (1994).
Tork onstage with Dolenz in 2016
Tork is survived by his fourth wife, Pamela Grapes; his daughter Hallie; his daughter Erica; his son Ivan; and his brother and sister.
His death, following the death of Monkees frontman Davy Jones in 2012, leaves original Monkees members Dolenz, 73, and Nesmith, 76.
Peter Tork was a tremendous musician. He had a natural ability that for me was the soul of @TheMonkees.Truly an Americana aficionado as well as a member of the beloved rock band. Their origins irrelevant. Their musical output fun & eternal. RIP pic.twitter.com/DC8PA1kGIm
Heartbroken to hear of the passing of the sweet Peter Tork💔 Such a fan of Peter's music and #TheMonkees . His music has brought such joy into this world and will live on forever. My heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. We will miss you. Rest In Peace Peter. pic.twitter.com/55h2ku632N
Heartbreaking 💔 I love @TheMonkees so much. I got all the kids in my Catholic boarding school, my 8th grade class, to sign my petition to the nuns to let us watch the TV show once a week & we WON! Such a huge part of my youth... RIP Peter Tork 😢🙏🎶💔 pic.twitter.com/oqUd65IqmY
So sad to hear of the passing of #PeterTork The Monkees never made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame, but they will forever be remembered as a part of our childhood. A great musician,songwriter, and poet. pic.twitter.com/30dXG6apCX
Peter Tork and I were often compared as the two great tv bassists. The big difference, Peter could really play. And play many instruments. He was an underrated musical genius and will be sorely missed. #RIPPeterTork pic.twitter.com/D0ns1RvdlY