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Folk musician Peter Tork of Monkees fame dies at 77

The bassist was diagnosed with a form of tongue cancer in 2009

Peter Tork rocketed to teen idol fame in 1965 as the bass guitarist for The Monkees. AP.
Peter Tork rocketed to teen idol fame in 1965 as the bass guitarist for The Monkees. AP.

Peter Tork, the offbeat folk artist who found fame with 1960s pop band the Monkees, has died, his team announced on Thursday. He was 77 years old.

"It is with beyond heavy and broken hearts that we share the devastating news that our friend, mentor, teacher and amazing soul Peter Tork has passed from this world," the team posted on his official Facebook page.

The musician in 2009 had adenoid cystic carcinoma diagnosed. It is a rare form of cancer affecting the tongue.

"There are no words right now. heartbroken over the loss of my Monkee brother," tweeted drummer-singer Mickey Dolenz, the band's last surviving member.

The Monkees were originally conceived as a TV show in 1965. The four-piece band won two Emmy awards and in 1967 outsold the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Songs such as Daydream Believer, I'm a Believer and Last Train to Clarksville topped the charts, but the wisecracking foursome drew criticism by some who considered them a rip-off of the Beatles, who had rushed on to the American pop culture scene a few years earlier.

The band released nine albums between 1966 and 1970, after which they disbanded, but they have come back together in various combinations over the years.

Tork, the group's keyboardist and bass guitarist, crafted a persona as the Monkees' lovable "dummy" but later began to resent the band as his musical ambitions grew.

Born in Washington on February 13, 1942, Tork took piano lessons and studied French horn.

Having cut his teeth in the free-wheeling folk scene of New York's Greenwich Village, he was a multi-instrumentalist who became the first member to leave the Monkees, feeling restricted artistically.

He struggled to regain a music career in the decades that followed, briefly serving time for drug possession, working as a teacher and a waiter, and struggling with alcoholism before overcoming the addiction in the 1980s.

After MTV began rerunning Monkees episodes, they discovered a resurgence in the late 1980s, leading to a number of sometimes partial reunion tours.

Despite reports of head-butting among members of the group, Tork insisted that they had a chemistry.

"I refute any claims that any four guys could've done what we did," he said in 2013 in an interview with Guitar World. "We couldn't have chosen each other. It wouldn't have flown."

"But under the circumstances, they got the right guys."

Updated: February 22, 2019 01:40 AM