Davy Jones, cast as lead singer for 'The Monkees,' was heartthrob for millions
Davy Jones, who died at his home in Florida at the age of 66, was best known for his lead role with 'The Monkees,' which pioneered techniques exploited by other TV shows for years.
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While he was an up-and-coming actor/singer, nabbing a Tony nomination for his role as the Artful Dodger in “Oliver!” he is known to millions as the heartthrob at the center of the popular TV show that ran from 1966 to 1968 and pioneered stylistic techniques that were exploited by other programs for years.
The program itself has a place in TV history for giving birth to what Fordham University media professor Paul Levinson calls the first musical group that was a complete creation of the television world.
“This was not a group that jammed in a garage or made a demo that somehow made its way to a studio executive,” he points out. “This was not a bunch of musicians that wrote their own music and hoped to be discovered like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones.”
Rather, the show was conceived as a TV pilot, and Mr. Jones, who was under contract to the studio, was cast as the lead singer. The remaining members of the band, Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Michael Nesmith were hired after Jones.
Despite being a media creation, points out Professor Levinson, the group sold real records to real fans. “It paved the way for all subsequent media creations that moved through the screen and out into the real world,” he says.
The program became a pop culture phenomenon, points out Robert Thompson, founder of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University in New York. The fantasy world of the four fictional characters “playing themselves,” hit a chord in the culture and touched millions of people, he points out.
“If you think of Justin Bieber and multiply that many times,” he says with a laugh, “that was the sort of impact Davy Jones had.”