Peter Tork, best-known for his work with The Monkees has passed away. He was 77-years old. The multi-instrumentalist's sister Anne Thorkelson, confirmed the news, but she did not provide any further details. Tork was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, adenoid cystic carcinoma in 2009. The slow-moving cancer effects the neck and head, but after receiving treatment, the musician made a full recovery and continued to tour, singing and playing banjo on nearly a nightly basis. It is not clear at this time if Tork's cancer made a return.
Peter Tork grew up in Washington D.C., though early Monkees press releases stated that he was born in New York City. At an early age, Tork began to get interested in music and starting playing piano at the age of nine before gravitating to the banjo, bass guitar, and acoustic guitar. He later moved to New York City, where he was a part of the Greenwich Village music scene in the 1960s. He later moved to Long Beach, California and it's there that Tork networked with other musicians, including Stephen Stills, who was the one who told him about The Monkees auditions.
Filmmaker Bob Rafelson developed the initial idea for The Monkees TV series in 1962, but wasn't able to sell the series. The release of The Beatles' 1964 movie A Hard Day's Night inspired Rafelson to bring his TV series idea back. In late 1965, the show cast Peter Tork, Davy Jones, Mike Nesmith, and Micky Dolenz as a fictional band that became a reality. The Monkees premiered in 1966 at the height of Beatlemania and though the show only consisted of two seasons, it won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy and launched the careers of the "pre-fab four," who at one time were outselling the Beatles and Rolling Stones combined.
In addition to The Monkees TV series, the group put out the feature-length films Head and 33⅓ Revolutions Per Monkee. However, after the release of the last movie, Peter Tork decided that he was done with the grueling tour schedule and was fed up with not contributing to the songwriting process in a meaningful way. Though the artists in the band did contribute songs, most of their big hits were written by a stable of songwriters, including Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Neil Diamond, David Gates, Neil Sedaka, and Jeff Barry. Tork and Mike Nesmith were very vocal about their displeasure about the song contributing process.
After The Monkees, Peter Tork continued to play music and was featured in George Harrison's 1967 movie Wonderwall. But, the 1970s were a tough time for the musician who started to find work in any way that he could to survive. He worked as a high school teacher and even at one point as a "singing waiter." It's during this time that he began to abuse drugs and alcohol, though he said that he was able to clean up by the 1980s. By this time, The Monkees were being offered a bunch of cash to reunite and tour, which got Tork back on his feet and allowed him to tour as a solo artist. He last played with surviving Monkees members Micky Dolenz and Mike Nesmith in December 2016. Rest In Peace, Peter Tork. The news of the musicians death was first reported by Deadline.