Monkees singer and guitarist Michael Nesmith, a pop visionary who wrote many of the band’s most enduring songs before laying the foundations for country rock with the First National Band in the early 1970s, died of natural causes on Friday. He was 78 years old.

“With Infinite Love, we announce that Michael Nesmith passed away this morning in his home surrounded by family, peacefully and from natural causes,” his family said in a statement. “We ask that you respect our privacy at this time and we thank you for the love and the light you have all shown to him and to us.”

Nesmith was known as the Monkee in the green wool hat with the thick drawl of Texas, and the author of songs like “Mary, Mary”, “Circle Sky”, “Listen to the Band” and “The Girl I Knew” Somewhere ”. But it raged behind the scenes that the band lacked creative control over their albums, and in 1967 he successfully led the rebellion against record producer Don Kirshner. The group will be released later Headquarter and other albums created largely by himself.

In a 2012 interview with Rolling stone, Nesmith explained why he was so adamant that the Monkees wrote and recorded their own material despite the huge success they were enjoying at the time. “We were kids with our own musical tastes and were happier performing songs we loved – and / or wrote – than songs given to us,” he said. “It allowed for a better performance. It was more fun. That this was becoming a bone of contention struck me as odd, and I think to all of us to some extent – sort of “What’s the problem, why don’t you let us?” not play the songs we sing? “

Even before joining the Monkees, Nesmith wrote a breakup song called “Different Drum”. The producers of the Monkees “told him, ‘This is not a song of the Monkees’,” said Micky Dolenz. Rolling stone in 2016. “Michael said. “Wait a minute, I’m one of the Monkees. He gave it to Linda Ronstadt, and the rest is history.

When the Monkees disbanded in the late 1960s, Nesmith formed the First National Band. And despite recording three classic country-rock albums, escaping the shadow of the Monkees has proven to be nearly impossible. The group broke up shortly before the Eagles hit hard with “Take It Easy”.

“I was heartbroken beyond speech,” said Nesmith Rolling stone in 2018. “I couldn’t even pronounce the words ‘Eagles’, and I loved California Hotel and I like the Eagles, the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Byrds’ Rodeo sweetheart, all that. It was just in my wheelhouse, and I was scared, Van Gogh – agonized, not to compare myself to him, but I wanted to cut something because I was like, ‘Why is this happening? The Eagles now have the best-selling album of all time and mine is in the closet of a closed record company? “

Nesmith spent the rest of the 70s recording solo albums under the radar. In 1977, he promoted his single “Rio” with a clever music video which was performed extensively in Europe and Australia, making the song a minor success. It gave him an incredible idea. “[I realized that] radio is to recordings what television is to video ”, he declared. Rolling stone in 2013. “Then it was like ‘Of course!’ and so MTV was born. I just took this idea and put together a few programs and sent it to Warner Bros. And so on. The next thing you know, it was there.

Her life changed forever in 1980 when her mother, Liquid Paper inventor Bette Nesmith Graham, passed away and left her her considerable fortune. He used the money to invest in a series of companies with films like Man rest and Reading heads. He didn’t take part in the Monkees ‘reunion tours in the’ 80s, which gave the false impression that he was ashamed of his pop past.

“Quite the contrary,” he said. Rolling stone in 2013. “It was a great part of the CV. It was fun for me and a highlight of my life. I mean, where do you wanna be in the 60s other than rock & roll, hanging out with the stage? London was an absolute blast, just like LA back then. There was so much going on at the time.

He returned to the Monkees in 1996 for the LP Only U.S and a brief tour of the UK, but he wouldn’t return permanently until 2012, when the surviving members toured in the wake of Davy Jones’ death. A series of American tours of the Monkees followed, and he participated in Good time!, their LP back in 2016.

The Monkees kicked off a farewell tour earlier this year and performed their final show at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles on November 14.

Despite all of this, he was never quite sure that the Monkees, who were formed by TV producers, were in fact a real group. “The three of us have our own ideas,” he said. Rolling stone in 2016. “This being:“ What is it? What do we have here? What is asked of us? Is it a group? Is it a TV show? ‘ When you go back to the genesis of this thing, it’s a TV show because it has all of these traditional beats. But something else was happening, and it struck a chord out of proportion to the original hammer swing. You hit the gong and suddenly it’s huge.