Monkees singer Davy Jones dies in Florida at 66

1960s heartthrob suffered massive heart attack

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Updated: February 29, 2012, 6:33 PM

 
photoDavy Jones died Wednesday in Florida. He was 66. Jones rose to fame in 1965 when he joined The Monkees, a popular rock group formed for a television show. Jones sang lead vocals on songs like "I Wanna Be Free" and "Daydream Believer."

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Davy Jones, the diminutive heartthrob who rocketed to the top of the 1960s music charts by beckoning millions of adoring fans with the catchy refrains of The Monkees hit songs, died Wednesday. He was 66.

His publicist, Helen Kensick, confirmed that Jones died of a heart attack near his home in Indiantown. Jones complained of breathing troubles early in the morning and was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, said Rhonda Irons, spokeswoman of the Martin County Sheriff’s Office.

In a 911 call released Wednesday night, an unidentified woman pleads, “Ambulance, please, hurry!” His home was about 27 miles from the hospital and a fire rescue unit rushed him to the hospital.

Jones’ moppish long hair, boyish good looks and his British accent endeared him to legions of screaming young fans after “The Monkees” premiered on NBC in 1966 as a made-for-TV band seeking to capitalize on Beatlemania sweeping the world.

Aspirations of Beatles-like fame were never fully achieved, with the TV show lasting just two years. But The Monkees made rock `n roll history as the band garnered a wide American following with love-struck hits such as “Daydream Believer” and “I’m a Believer” that endure to this day.

Born in Manchester, England, on Dec. 30, 1945, Jones became a child star in his native England who appeared on television and stage, including a heralded role as “The Artful Dodger” in the play “Oliver.”

He earned a Tony nomination at 16 when he reprised that role in the show’s Broadway production, a success that brought him to the attention of Columbia Pictures/Screen Gems Television, which created The Monkees. Hundreds turned out for auditions, but the young men who became the Monkees had no idea what ultimately awaited them.

“They had an ad in the newspaper,” Jones recalled on NBC’s “Today Show” last year, “and then we all showed up.”

“The Monkees” was a band clearly patterned on the Beatle’s film “A Hard Days Night,” chronicling the comic trials and tribulations of a rock group whose four members lived together and traveled to gigs in a tricked-out car called the Monkeemobile. Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz starred with Jones. Each part was loosely created to resemble one of the Beatles.

At 5-feet-3 inches, Jones was by far the shortest member of the group — a fact often made light of on the show. But he also was its dreamboat, mirroring Paul McCartney’s role in the Beatles. And as the only Briton among the four, Jones was in some ways the Monkees’ direct connection to the Beatlemania still strong in the U.S. when the TV show made its debut.

It was a shrewd case of cross-platform promotion. As David Bianculli noted in his “Dictionary of Teleliteracy,” “The show’s self-contained music videos, clear forerunners of MTV, propelled the group’s first seven singles to enviable positions of the pop charts: three number ones, two number twos, two number threes.”

The group eventually broke up over creative differences, although it did reunite from time to time for brief tours over the years, usually without Nesmith.

In 1987, Jones, Tork, and Dolenz recorded a new album, “Pool It.” And two years later, the group received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. On Wednesday, flowers were placed on Jones’ own Hollywood star nearby as fans mourned.

Tork said Wednesday of his former bandmate: “His gifts will be with us always.” Nesmith said “David’s spirit and soul live well in my heart, among all the lovely people,” using a phrase from a Beatles song that seemed to again cement the two groups’ ties.

Jones is survived by his wife, Jessica.