Peter Tork, bassist for The Monkees, dead at 77 |
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Peter Tork, bassist for The Monkees, dead at 77

Chris Pastrick
Peter Tork of The Monkees performs during the Mid Summers Night Tour at the Mizner Park Amphitheater on Saturday, July 27, 2013 in Boca Raton, Fla.
Peter Tork of Monkees singing group at press conference at Warwick Hotel in New York City on July 6, 1967.

Peter Tork, one of the four lovable wisecracking musicians in The Monkees, died Feb. 21 at age 77.

The Washington Post reports Tork’s death was confirmed by his sister, Anne Thorkelson. She didn’t divulge how or where he died. In 2009, Tork was diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare form of cancer that affected his tongue.

The Monkees might have been created in the 1960s as a TV show parody of The Beatles, but they quickly became a legitimate force in the music industry themselves, outselling the Fab Four for a short time.

On NBC’s “The Monkees” TV show, Tork was the goofy member of the band, playing bass and keyboard. He was the oldest member of the band (24) when the show premiered in 1966. The show also starred guitarist Mike Nesmith, drummer Micky Dolenz and vocalist Davy Jones, who died in 2012.

The show ran for just two seasons, but the band managed to sell more than 35 million albums, and land several hit singles, including “Last Train to Clarksville,” “I’m a Believer,” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday.”

After the Monkees’ failed 1968 film “Head,” Tork left the band. During the 1970s, he formed the band Release and did a 3-month stint in jail for possession of hashish. He struggled with an addiction to alcohol, which he gave up in the early 1980s.

In the ’80s, he reunited with Jones and Dolenz and the trio hit the charts again briefly.

In recent years, Tork, Dolenz and Nesmith had been touring and releasing new albums, including the band’s first holiday album, “Christmas Party,” in October.

He was born Peter Halsten Thorkelson on Feb. 13, 1942, in Washington, D.C., to parents John and Virginia Thorkelson. His family moved around a lot while he was growing up, eventually settling in Connecticut.

As a child, he studied piano, banjo and acoustic guitar. After briefly attending Carleton College in Minnesota, Tork moved to New York City’s Greenwich Village, where he became friends with Stephen Stills. After only three months, Tork moved to California.

On the West coast, Tork joined Stills in The Buffalo Fish as pianist. It was Stills who got Tork the audition for The Monkees.

Chris Pastrick is a Tribune-Review digital producer. You can contact Chris at 412-320-7898, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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