Musician Peter Tork, the perpetually cheerful keyboard-playing member of the 1960s rock group The Monkees, has died at 77.
Tork’s family and his Facebook page gave no cause of death, but he was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer in 2009.
Tork was a bass guitarist and an established but obscure folk singer when he joined The Monkees in 1966. The group was created for a television sitcom about four struggling rock musicians.
The Monkees TV series was known for its outlandish plots, slapstick comedy, and quick-cut editing. It became a major hit, especially with young people, and won several awards.
Tork’s comedy character was goofy, shy and forever optimistic.
Critics were not so kind to The Monkees as a musical group, calling them a contrived attraction made up of four actors who were just competent musicians and never played together before the TV show was created.
But their records became smash hits, outselling the Beatles and Rolling Stones at one point to become part of the soundtrack of late 60s America.
The TV show was canceled in 1968 and Tork quit the band not long after to concentrate on his solo career. He struggled with alcoholism and had a hard time finding work until reruns of the TV show made The Monkees popular again.
He frequently joined fellow stars Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, and Michael Nesmith for reunion shows.
Jones died in 2012. Dolenz and Nesmith still perform both together and solo. Both surviving Monkees say they are heartbroken over Tork’s death.