Peter Tork, bassist and keyboardist for iconic British band, The Monkees, died Thursday. Tork’s cause of death was given as tongue cancer on New York City’s Q104. CNN notes that the musician was diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma of the tongue in 2009.
A group comprised of Peter Tork’s friends, family and colleagues, called PTFB, has maintained Tork’s Facebook page for years. They have requested privacy, but assure fans that Tork was appreciative of them. The group ends the message with “We send blessings and thoughts of comfort to you all with much gratitude.”
Tork was a member of the member of The Monkees from 1966 until 1968. His tenure in the band included participating in the television show about the group and appearing in the 1968 movie “Head.” He left shortly after the movie was complete.
Tork did continue to make music, and according to CNN, took part in The Monkees’ reunions until 2016. Another member of the group, singer Davy Jones, passed away in 2012.
When he wasn’t performing music, Tork worked as a high school teacher.
The Monkees and the American rock scene
The Monkees made a name for themselves in the US at a time when garage rock was doing its part for the evolution of rock ‘n’ roll. With their keyboards and tambourines, and overall sunny dispositions, The Monkees were something different. Which was not to say that their songs lacked any gravity. “Last Train to Clarksville” was the group’s debut single. The song makes stylish use of pauses, as if waiting for the guitar’s “ringing” to fade before continuing with the lyrics. Their high-pitched harmonies, spirited guitar work and energetic drumming, not to mention nuances of bass and keyboards.
Other hits for The Monkees include: “I’m A Believer” (1967), “Steppin’ Stone” (1967), “Pleasant Valley Sunday” (1967) “Daydream Believer” (1968). Of those, “Steppin’ Stone” is the most angry, and rightfully so. The song tells the story of a guy dating a girl who has made it big in the fashion world. He does not want to be used as her step into a glamorous lifestyle. The nearly screamed lyrics, the persistent guitar, make the song sound more like garage rock than jangle rock. The variety of lyrical topics made it clear that The Monkees were more complex than some listeners thought they were.
The Monkees broke up in 1970. The show that had been named after them had been cancelled in 1968 after airing on NBC for two years. Despite lackluster record sales for albums that came after the band’s television show was cancelled, interest in The Monkees revived when Music Television re-aired the show in the mid-1980s.
The Monkees are a part of rock ‘n’ roll history. The loss of Tork will resonate painfully among fans and music historians.