Peter Tork, bassist for the Monkees, dies aged 77

Peter Tork in his 1960s heyday.
Peter Tork in his 1960s heyday. Photograph: Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock

Peter Tork, the bassist for the Monkees, has died aged 77.

Tork, who also sang on a number of the band’s songs and played keyboards, had been diagnosed with a rare form of tongue cancer in 2009, though the cause of his death, which was confirmed by his sister, has not been announced.

Born in Washington DC in 1942, Tork – whose real name was Peter Thorkelson – joined the Monkees when he was 24 after the quartet were brought together by US TV executives aiming to create a teenage guitar-pop sensation to match the Beatles.

Tork was recommended to audition by Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and was already an accomplished musician in his own right, having played on the Greenwich Village folk scene in the early 1960s. He said he was “mortified” when he turned up to an early Monkees studio date to be told that their band’s album had already been recorded by session musicians.

The Monkees: Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork, Davy Jones, and Micky Dolenz.
The Monkees: Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork, Davy Jones, and Micky Dolenz. Photograph: Moviestore/Rex/Shutterstock

Tork’s role in the band’s TV adventures was as a goofy, dopey comic foil. He was with the band for six albums, the first four of which all went to No 1 in the US and Top Five in the UK. From their third album Headquarters onwards, he and his bandmates performed on their albums themselves – a shift often credited to Tork’s influence – but he quit the band in 1968 following their their flop psychedelic opus Head.

Less successful solo projects and bands followed, along with a short jail term for hashish possession in 1972. He made occasional guest appearances with the Monkees before reforming the band with Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz for a 20th-anniversary tour in 1986, and recording new material for the album Pool It! Michael Nesmith later also rejoined, and the reunited quartet released the album Justus in 1996.

Tork, Jones and Dolenz reunited once more in 2011 for a 45th-anniversary tour. Nesmith rejoined following Jones’s death in 2012, with the remaining members recording two further albums together, including the acclaimed Good Times!, which featured songs written by Noel Gallagher, Paul Weller, Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo and Carole King, who tweeted: “RIP Peter Tork”.

Tork also took occasional acting roles in TV shows including Boy Meets World, Wings, and The King of Queens.

Songwriter Dianne Warren was among others to pay tribute to Tork, tweeting: “Oh no RIP Peter Tork. Thank U for giving me your love beads (it was the 60s!) when I was a little girl.” Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys wrote: “I’m sad to hear about Peter Tork passing. I thought The Monkees were great and Peter will be missed. Love & mercy to Peter’s family, friends and fans.”