His death was confirmed by his sister Anne Thorkelson, The Washington Post reported. In 1999 Tork had been diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare cancer affecting his tongue.
“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 musician’s Facebook page posted.
“As we have mentioned in the past, the PTFB team is made up of Peter’s friends, family and colleagues – we ask for your kindness and understanding in allowing us to grieve this huge loss privately. This page will remain open for your use in sharing your thoughts with your fellow fans and hopefully helping you through your own grieving journey, however, the team will not be available for some time as we start to mend our own hearts and calm our minds.”
“We want to thank each and every one of you for your love, dedication and support of our ‘boss,’” the statement continued. “Having you in our world has meant so very much to all of us. Please know that Peter was extremely appreciative of you, his Torkees, and one of his deepest joys was to be out in front of you, playing his music, and seeing you enjoy what he had to share. We send blessings and thoughts of comfort to you all, with much gratitude.”
Tork was born Peter Halsten Thorkelson in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 13, 1942. His mother was a homemaker, and his father – an Army officer who served in the military government in Berlin after World War II – was an economics professor.
“The Monkees” was initially a made-for-TV-band that became a worldwide phenomenon after its two-year run (1966-1968). The NBC series told the hilarious misadventures of a struggling rock band, described as a “manufactured version of the Beatles,” where Tork was its lovable Ringo. The series was created by producers Bob Radelson and Bert Schneider to mimic the success of “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!” the musical comedies about the Beatles by director Richard Lester, according to The Washington Post.
As part of the teeny-bopper sensation, Tork performed as the self-described “dummy” of the group and drew inspiration for his persona from his time working as a folk musician in New York City’s Greenwich Village. But off-screen, Tork embraced the Summer of Love movement and proudly wore “love beads” and declared that “nonverbal, extrasensory communication is at hand” and that “dogmatism is leaving the scene.”
Tork, who was The Monkees’ oldest member at age 24 in 1966, also sung lead vocals on tracks, such as “Your Auntie Grizelda” and “Long Title: Do I have to Do This All Over Again,” which he wrote for the band’s 1968 psychedelic film “Head.”
While “The Monkees” ran for only two seasons, it won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy and resulted in massive record sales, highly sought-after merchandising and world tours known as Monkeemania. According to one report by The Washington Post, The Monkees sold 35 million albums in 1967 — “twice as many as the Beatles and Rolling Stones combined.”
The Monkees also played to sold-out stadium crowds and were backed by opening acts, such as guitarist Jimi Hendrix during one brief moment. However, Tork reportedly clashed with his bandmates as his musical ambitions grew. He left the group soon after the release of “Head.”
The Washington Post noted that for much of the 1970s, Tork struggled on his own as an artist. While he formed a band called Release, it proved to be unsuccessful. He was also imprisoned for several months in 1972 after being caught with “$3 worth of hashish in my pocket.” He also worked as a high school teacher and a “singing waiter.” Tork previously told UK’s Daily Mail he also struggled with alcoholism before getting clean in the early 1980s.
With the help of reruns and album reissues, a growing interest in the Monkees ultimately compelled Tork to embrace the music group. He would go on to join them for major reunion tours about once each decade, beginning in the mid-‘80s. He also performed as a solo artist. His 1994 album “Stranger Things Have Happened” was well-received.
“This is not a band,” Tork told Britain’s Telegraph in 2016. “It’s an entertainment operation whose function is Monkee music. It took me a while to get to grips with that but what great music it turned out to be! And what a wild and wonderful trip it has taken us!”
Tork is survived by his wife Pamela Grapes, a daughter named Hallie from his second marriage, a son named Ivan from his third marriage, a daughter named Erica from a relationship with Tammy Sustek, as well as a brother and sister.