Miami. Davy Jones, lead singer of 1960s made-for-TV band The Monkees whose hits included “I’m a Believer” and “Last Train to Clarksville,” died on Wednesday, the local coroner said. He was 66.
The British-born star, whose TV antics with Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork drew fans but also unflattering comparisons with the Beatles, died of a heart attack in Florida, the TMZ celebrity website said.
The singer died after being transported to Martin Hospital South in Martin County, southern Florida, near where Jones lived, said a spokesman for the hospital, Scott Samples.
“Mr. Jones began to complain of not feeling well and having trouble breathing,” said the Martin County Sheriff’s Office in a statement, adding that emergency services took him to hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The four-piece band initially gained fame through their TV show about a band called The Monkees, created by legendary US music producer Don Kirshner.
His good looks and British charm — he was born in Manchester, England — went down well with US audiences, along with the three American group members: guitarist Nesmith, bassist Tork and drummer-singer Dolenz.
Their knockabout antics on the show — with the toe-tapping theme tune “Hey Hey, We’re the Monkees” — drew criticism that they were a rip-off of the Beatles, who had taken America by storm a few years earlier.
The TV show only aired for three years in the US in the 1960s, but it was re-run elsewhere over the years and is remembered by a generation of fans, if not by current younger audiences.
Other hits included “Daydream Believer” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday.”
The band released nine albums between 1966 and 1970, after which they disbanded — but have reformed in various combinations over the years, according to the Billboard magazine.
The star’s Monkees bandmates voiced sorrow and shock.
“His talent will be much missed; his gifts will be with us always .. Adios, to the Manchester Cowboy,” Tork wrote on his Facebook page, calling Jones “my long-time friend and fellow-adventurer.”
“I am in a state of shock and disbelief right now…My heart and prayers go out to Davy’s family,” added Dolenz on his Twitter account.
Fresh-faced Jones was also said to be the reason that David Bowie — real name David Robert Jones — changed his name in the mid-1960s to avoid any confusion.
The US band’s producer Kirshner, once described as “The Man with the Golden Ear” for his ability to detect and promote a hit record, died in January last year.
As well as launching the TV band, Kirshner also nurtured stars including Neil Diamond, Bobby Darin, Neil Sedaka and song-writing husband and wife Carole King and Gerry Goffin.
Jones was scheduled to perform with music contemporary David Cassidy, formerly of the Partridge Family, at the Magic City Casino in Miami on April 14th, CBS reported.
Jones is survived by his wife Jessica and four daughters from previous marriages, TMZ said.
In Hollywood, flowers were laid on his star on the storied Walk of Fame stretch of sidewalk, where passing British and Australian tourists voiced surprise and sadness at the news, according to an AFP photographer.
Rolling Stone magazine published a tribute to Jones entitled: “In Memory of the Cute One,” saying he “was the grooviest of the Monkees, which makes him one of the grooviest pop stars who ever existed.
“He was the best dancer in the Monkees, the Cute One, the one with the coy English accent, the bowl-cut boy-child who shook those cherry-red maracas and always got the girl.”
“He was also the guy who stole David Bowie’s original name,” it added.