The Record
11:30 am
Wed February 29, 2012

Davy Jones, Singer, Actor And Monkee, Has Died

Originally published on Wed July 31, 2013 11:19 am

Audio: Reporter Neda Ulaby remembers Davy Jones for All Things Considered.


Davy Jones, one-fourth of the made-for-TV band The Monkees, has died. The actor and singer died Wednesday morning in Indiantown, Fla., of a heart attack. He was 66.

Jones was born in Manchester, England, and began acting as a child in BBC soap operas. Later he played the title role in the West End production of Oliver! and moved with the show to Broadway in 1964. As part of that cast he was backstage at The Ed Sullivan Show when the Beatles made their first television appearance in the U.S.

He was 20 years old when the television show he had signed on for was greenlighted by NBC. The Monkees was a vehicle for the titular band, eventually derided as the "Pre-Fab Four."

The Monkees were originally hired only to act and sing on the show, but they eventually wrested some creative control over the music they recorded for it. They took their act on the road, playing live dates across the U.S. and the U.K., and recorded hits like "Daydream Believer" and "Last Train to Clarksville."

A few years after the show went off the air in the late '60s, the band broke up. Jones remained a clean-cut teen idol, appearing on the The Brady Bunch. It was his kiss that made Marcia Brady vow to never wash her face again.

Starting in the '80s, the band played reunion tours, and the original program was rebroadcast on Nickelodeon. Jones continued to record and tour with both The Monkees and other projects. He played in New York City earlier this month.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF THE MONKEES SONG, "LOOK OUT, HERE COMES TOMORROW")

DAVY JONES: (Singing) Look out, here comes tomorrow. That's when I'll have to choose. How I wish...

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Singer Davy Jones has died. The Monkees front man died this morning in a Florida hospital after suffering a heart attack. He was 66. As NPR's Neda Ulaby reports, Jones was a teen idol. And in the 1960s, he became the nonthreatening face of rock 'n' roll on network television.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: Floppy hair, goofy grin - Davy Jones was the kind of rock star a girl could take home to Grandma back in 1966. And that's even how he came across in an NPR interview four decades later - sweet, sincere and mildly idealistic.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

JONES: You know, music mingles souls. It brings people together. And so this is what The Monkees does all the time. I don't think that's very good grammar - that Monkees does. But never mind that because, as they used to say, The Monkees is coming. The Monkees is coming.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ULABY: He was the British boy in an American band specifically designed to mimic The Beatles, says Ben Greenman. He's the music editor for The New Yorker.

BEN GREENMAN: You know, they were sort of lighter versions of what people saw in other pop stars, so there was slight brooding or, you know, slight sex appeal.

ULABY: Davy Jones was The Monkees' slight sex appeal - and he was slight, at 5-4.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE MONKEES")

JONES: What number is this chip?

MICKY DOLENZ, PETER TORK, MICHAEL NESMITH: (In unison) 7A.

JONES: OK. I mean, don't get excited, man. It's because I'm short, I know.

ULABY: But Jones was the cute one in the band known as the Prefab Four, and he sang the lead in one of its biggest hits.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE MONKEES SONG, "DAYDREAM BELIEVER")

JONES: (Singing) Oh, I could hide beneath the wings of the bluebird as she sings...

ULABY: Jones was born in England in 1945, and he got his start as a child actor - first on TV, and then on stage. He gained attention as the Artful Dodger in a London production of "Oliver!" that made its way to New York, and earned him a Tony nomination.

That's how The Monkees came to be. Producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider picked Davy, Micky, Michael and Peter not for their musicianship, but their stage presence. And even though their TV show aired for only two years, it generated eight top-10 hits, and half a dozen songs that everybody knows.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE MONKEES SONG, "DAYDREAM BELIEVER")

JONES: (Singing) Cheer up, sleepy Jean. Oh, what can it mean to a daydream believer and a homecoming queen?

ULABY: The Monkees were eviscerated by critics, who accused them of basically being a capitalist conceptual art project. It didn't help that at first, not all of them knew how to play their own instruments. But they got better, says Ben Greenman.

GREENMAN: They used the best session musicians and had access to the best songwriters, and performed fine.

ULABY: Even after The Monkees broke up in 1970, Greenman says Davy Jones came across as deeply - well, affable.

GREENMAN: Happy to be recognized, happy to sing the songs on sitcoms later he appeared on.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE MONKEES SONG, "GIRL")

JONES: (Singing) Girl, look what you've done to me...

ULABY: Like when he famously wooed oldest sister Marcia on "The Brady Bunch," in 1971.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE BRADY BUNCH")

MAUREEN MCCORMICK: (as Marcia Brady) You'll really come to the prom?

JONES: (as himself) Well, there is one, little problem.

MCCORMICK: (as Marcia Brady) What?

JONES: (as himself) Well, I don't have a date. Do you know a girl that would like to go with me?

MCCORMICK: (as Marcia Brady) Do I!

ULABY: Some people might recall Marcia refusing to wash her cheek after Davy Jones pecked it.

The Monkees enjoyed a second life in the 1980s, when MTV replayed the series. And Davy Jones continued appearing on TV and radio - on "This is Your Life," "Hollywood Squares," "The Howard Stern Show" and "SpongeBob SquarePants."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS")

JONES: (as himself) Yeah. That's right, baby. Welcome to my locker.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ULABY: A few years ago, Davy Jones remembered the appeal of The Monkees as happy and uncomplicated. The music, he said, never promised its listeners anything more.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

JONES: It was simple. And they want that simplicity, and they want that release from this high-powered society, goal-oriented world.

ULABY: A reminder, maybe, of what is was like to be a teenager - or a dream of a teenager in a candy-colored, friendly world of pop culture bliss.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE MONKEES SONG, "VALLERI")

JONES: (Singing) I love my Valleri.

ULABY: Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VALLERI")

JONES: (Singing) There's a girl I know who makes me feel so good, and I wouldn't live without her, even if I could. They call her Valleri. I love my Valleri.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.