Peter Tork, bassist and keyboardist of the Monkees and town of Mansfield resident, died at age 77 at his family’s home on Thursday. According to a post on Tork’s Facebook page, which is run by his family and friends, the musician died of complications resulting from adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare cancer of the salivary glands.
“Peter’s energy, intelligence, silliness, and curiosity were traits that for decades brought laughter and enjoyment to millions, including those of us closest to him,” the post said.
Born Peter Halsten Thorkelson in 1942 in Washington, D.C., Tork’s family moved to Mansfield, Connecticut when he was young.
His father, Halsten John Thorkelson, was a professor of economics at the University of Connecticut, and Tork attended E. O. Smith High School.
A gifted musician who could play guitar, banjo, French horn and keyboards, Tork became involved in the Greenwich Village folk scene in the early 1960s. During this time, he met and played with Stephen Stills, who would go on to sing in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and who even recommended Tork for a role in the show “The Monkees.”
Tork gained fame for his jokester character on “The Monkees” and for his playing in the band of the same name. The Monkees (composed of singer/actor Davy Jones, drummer/actor Micky Dolenz and guitarist Michael Nesmith) were a made-for-TV band, and detractors often criticized the fact that the band didn’t write their own songs or play their own instruments, at least in the beginning. While some originally derided this artificiality, the Monkees made their mark with hit songs like “Daydream Believer” and “I’m a Believer.” On their third album, “Headquarters,” the band began to play and write their own songs. No matter what critics said, audiences loved the group of four zany young men, and by 1967, Monkees albums were selling at a rate similar to that of Beatles and Rolling Stones albums.
Tork left the Monkees in 1968 but reunited with the other three members for a world tour in 2011. He toured again with Nesmith and Dolenz in 2012 as part of a tour that included a tribute to Jones, who had died that year. In between, Tork taught music at high schools in California and guest-starred on shows including “The King of Queens” and “7th Heaven.”
Tork’s fans will remember his Monkees music as the soundtrack to their youth and will continue to find joy in these retro recordings, joy that Tork certainly found in making them.
“We want to thank each and every one of you for your love, dedication and support of our ‘boss,’” read another post on Tork’s Facebook page. “Please know that Peter was extremely appreciative of you, his Torkees, and one of his deepest joys was to be out in front of you, playing his music, and seeing you enjoy what he had to share.”
Stephanie Santillo is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.