Today, I was very saddened to learn of the death of Davy Jones. We take for granted that those people who are woven into the fabric of our childhood will be with us forever. It stuns us when they leave, a cold reminder of the inescapable passage of time, especially when it is sudden and unexpected.
I'm not old enough to remember "The Monkees" when it originally aired, but I grew up on the re-runs. One of my siblings had a couple of their albums, which I played constantly and still have in my vinyl collection. There are baby pictures of me, still in a diaper, playing with maracas and beating on a tambourine. At some point, I graduated to a cheap kid's drum kit. My best friend Shawn and I started a band (if you can call two singers playing drums and percussion a band) and dubbed ourselves "The Mustangs." My first attempt at lyric writing came when I rewrote the lyrics to The Monkees theme song to fit my band ("people say we horse around").
Sometime in the late 1980's, Shawn and I finally saw The Monkees live at Great America. Though it was just Davy, Micky, and Peter at that time, it still ranks up there as one of the best concert experiences I've had as far as the "feel good" factor. Everyone in the audience was friendly and sharing childhood stories before the show. It felt like a reunion. During "Daydream Believer" we were all swaying and singing along, arms over the shoulders of complete strangers, all united in a moment of joyful nostalgia.
I am always perplexed by people who dismiss The Monkees because they were a manufactured band, created by television executives. Their songs were written by others and they weren't allowed to play instruments on the tracks. But they sang the songs, and later wrote, recorded, and performed their own music. There are hundreds of artists I can name today who "only" sing songs that are written and produced by others, and some bands that were formed by outside sources (managers and promoters). Do people ever question whether they are "real" musicians or bands? Hell, in this age of auto-tune, it's impossible to tell if a singer can even carry a tune outside the studio!
Regardless of how the songs or the band came about, The Monkees gave us some of the best "feel good" music of the late sixties and no voice in that band could make you smile like Davy's. There was a joyful innocence in his voice mixed with a hint of impishness. And of course, there was that British accent.
If I were to put together a CD of tracks that pick me up no matter how low my mood, "Daydream Believer" would be on the list. Thank you for sharing your voice and enthusiasm, Davy. You brought great joy a generation. You will be missed.