Singer and musician Michael Nesmith, who found fame with The Monkees in the 1960s before becoming a solo act and a pioneer in music video, has died.

His death comes less than a month after his final Monkees concert.

Nesmith, 78, died “surrounded by family, peacefully and of natural causes,” his family said in a statement Friday.

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Mike Nesmith of The Monkees performs in Rosemont, Ill., on Nov. 5. Rob Grabowski/Invision/AP

The Monkees, made up of Nesmith, Davy Jones, Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz, were a smash on TV and on the pop charts in the 1960s. Dolenz is now the last survivor.

Nesmith and Dolenz had toured this year, playing their final show as The Monkees on Nov. 14 in Las Vegas.

“I’m heartbroken,” Dolenz tweeted. “I’ve lost a dear friend and partner. I’m so grateful that we could spend the last couple of months together doing what we loved best – singing, laughing, and doing shtick. I’ll miss it all so much. Especially the shtick. Rest in peace, Nez. All my love, Micky.”

The group was a made-for-TV creation inspired by the success of the Beatles’ movie “A Hard Day’s Night.” Producers looked to find four captivating personalities for their fictional band, nicknamed “The Prefab Four” by some detractors.

Jones and Dolenz were primarily actors, but Tork and Nesmith were musicians, and Nesmith in particular wanted the group to be a real band.

While music producer Don Kirshner wanted to use outside songwriters and musicians, Nesmith fought to play a role in writing and recording. He was the only member of the band credited as a songwriter on their debut album, writing one song and cowriting another.

With Nesmith leading the way, the four Monkees played bigger roles on subsequent albums. On 1967′s “Headquarters,” the group provided most of the instrumentation, with Nesmith playing various guitars and organ.

“All of us shared the desire to play the songs we were singing,” Nesmith told Rolling Stone in 2012. “Everyone was accomplished – the notion I was the only musician is one of those rumors that got started and won’t stop – but it was not true.”

They were also a smash on TV, with the four cast members showing strong comedy chops. Their show, which ran from 1966-68, won two Emmys in its first year, including Outstanding Comedy Series.

For the TV versions of themselves, The Monkees had distinct personalities. Jones, the only Brit in the group, made all the girls swoon. Tork was lovably dumb and Dolenz was genially goofy. That left Nesmith – talking with a twang from his native Houston and often wearing a wool hat in Los Angeles – as the voice of reason.

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Mike Nesmith of The Monkees in 1967. RH/Associated Press

The group scored smash hits with songs such as “I’m a Believer,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “Daydream Believer.” The Nesmith-penned “Mary, Mary” was a success for the Monkees in 1966 and Run D.M.C. in 1988. The Run D.M.C. version had different lyrics, but still credited Nesmith as the sole songwriter.

They sold millions of records in their career, and the critical love they were denied in the 1960s came their way later, as critics recognized the enduring nature of their songs.

After the movie “Head” crashed in 1968, the group splintered, with first Tork, then Nesmith leaving, then Dolenz and Jones finally calling it quits.

Nesmith formed and fronted The First National Band, releasing well-received country-rock albums with a group and as a solo in the 1970s. Nesmith created the music-video show “PopClips,” which debuted on Nickelodeon in 1980. The show’s success inspired its owners, Warner Cable to create MTV, which launched a year later.

Nesmith won the first Grammy Award for long-form music video in 1982, for his one-hour, comedy/music video “Elephant Parts.”

It was MTV that gave the group new life in 1986, when it aired the 1960s episodes of “The Monkees.” The new interest brought a reunion – minus Mike. Nesmith, who didn’t need the money because his mother made a fortune for inventing correction fluid, did not want to tour, but he did give the other three his blessing, and joined them onstage in 1986 at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles.

The Monkees staged the biggest reunion of the four in 1996, when Nesmith came on board for the TV special “Hey, Hey, It’s The Monkees” and the album “Justus.”

Jones died in 2012, but in 2016, the group released “Good Times!” with Nesmith a full participant and Jones signing lead on an unreleased track from the 1960s. After Tork died, Jones and Nesmith continued to tour, through last month.


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