Monkees singer Davy Jones dies at 66

Davy Jones, a member of the 1960s pop sensations the Monkees, has died at age 66 after suffering a heart attack.

Davy Jones, a member of 1960s pop sensations the Monkees, has died at age 66 after suffering a heart attack.

Jones died in his home state of Florida on Wednesday after he was taken to hospital, according to the Martin County medical examiner's office.

The Monkees were a quartet created in 1965 for a TV show of the same name. Jones was lead singer on many of the Monkees' songs, including Daydream Believer and I Wanna Be Free.

The group, created as a safe alternative to Britain's chart-busting Beatles, had a huge following among pre-teen and adolescent girls and ended up touring and creating numerous hit singles.

The British-born Jones began his acting career at the age of 11 on long-running British soap Coronation Street. He also appeared on the West End stage as the Artful Dodger in a production of Oliver! before moving to the U.S.

He had a spot on the Ed Sullivan Show as part of the Oliver! cast and, when he saw the popularity of the Beatles on the same show, began pursuing his own career as a pop star. His first album, David Jones, was released when he was 20.

Series was good, clean comedy

Aspiring filmmakers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider were inspired by the Beatles' film A Hard Day's Night to devise a television series about a rock 'n' roll group. In 1966, Jones was cast with Peter Tork, Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith in The Monkees TV series, which centred on the comic antics of a rock 'n' roll band.

The Monkees, from left, Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones, Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz, pose with their Emmy award in June 1967. (Associated Press)

The Monkees' first single, Last Train to Clarksville, was released soon after the show debuted and hit No. 1, while their album The Monkees shot to the top of the charts in October 1966.

While Jones was nominally the band’s frontman, Dolenz is credited with creating a unique sound for the band. There was tension within the group over who was lead singer and the four members battled their studio and TV handlers over not being allowed to develop their own sound.

It was not until 1968 that they were allowed to play their own instruments, which they did for the first time on the album Headquarters. They also toured the U.K., U.S. and Japan.

The show was cancelled in 1968, but the band continued until 1971, when Tork and later Nesmith left the group. After the cancellation of the TV show, the group made a feature film, Head. The Monkees released a total of nine albums.

"It is with great sadness that I reflect on the sudden passing of my longtime friend and fellow adventurer, David Jones," bassist Tork said in memory of his fellow Monkee. "His talent will be much missed; his gifts will be with us always. My deepest sympathy to Jessica and the rest of his family. Adios, to the Manchester Cowboy."

Dolenz also released a statement of sympathy on Wednesday "Can't believe it. ... still in shock ... had bad dreams all night long," he said. "My love and prayers go out to Davy's girls and family right now."

Monkees' legacy

As the first of the manufactured boy bands created to appeal to young female fans, The Monkees paved the way for groups such as Backstreet Boys and new teen sensations One Direction. However, the band was reviled by rock critics for its bubble-gum appeal.

Later, the band appeared to gain a following with a new generation of musicians: the Sex Pistols recorded (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone, Run-D.M.C. recorded Mary, Mary and Smash Mouth performed a cover of I'm a Believer.

Davy Jones is shown Nov. 11, 2009, at the 43rd Annual Country Music Awards in Nashville, Tenn. (Peter Kramer/Associated Press)

Jones then pursued a solo career for a few years, before teaming up with Dolenz and songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart to produce a new album.

Jones joined a group called Toast in the early 1980s, then went back to the Monkees, along with Dolenz and Tork, to do the album Pool It! and a Christmas medley video after the show was rerun on MTV and captured the attention of a new generation. The group also did a 20th anniversary tour in 1986, another tour in 1989 and a final reunion album in 1996.

Actor and jockey

Jones continued his solo career and acted in theatre, starring in Oliver! and Grease. 

He also had cameos on shows such as The Brady Bunch and Love American Style and later appeared on The Single Guy and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.

He wrote two autobiographies, They Made a Monkee Out of Me and They Made a Monkee Out of Me … Again!, which recount his days as a Monkee and his marriages. Trained as a jockey because of his diminutive stature, Jones also dabbled in horse-racing.

His final two independent solo albums were Just Me  in 2001 and Just Me 2 in 2004.

Jones is survived by his wife, Jessica, and four daughters from previous marriages. He is also survived by Nesmith, Dolenz and Tork.