Speed Reads

Monkee do

5 heady facts about late Monkees singer-songwriter Michael Nesmith

Michael Nesmith, the singer-songwriter most famous for his role in the made-for-TV band The Monkees, died Friday of a heart ailment at age 78. But after The Monkees imploded in 1969, The Washington Post notes, Nesmith "went on to a multifaceted career as a country rock musician, music video pioneer, movie producer, and media executive."

Here are 5 facts casual Monkees fans may not know about Michael Nesmith.

1. Nesmith's mom invented whiteout. Nesmith was raised in Dallas by his mother, Bette Nesmith Graham, who invented the first correction fluid in 1956 while working as a typist. She turned her whiteout, Liquid Paper, into an office staple, selling the company to Gillette in 1979 for $47.5 million plus royalties. When Graham died in 1980, Nesmith inherited an estimated $50 million.

2. Nesmith plausibly co-invented country rock. Nesmith was an aspiring singer-songwriter playing clubs in Los Angeles when NBC cast him The Monkees. After the band broke up, he switched genres. His First National Band's three albums "failed to score on the charts, but remain widely admired examples of the L.A. country-rock sound," Variety reports

"These days, there are debates over whether the Byrds, Gram Parsons, or the Eagles invented country rock," Geoff Edgers writes at The Washington Post. "To me, nobody married the two like Nesmith" on those three "flawless" albums. The First National Band's debut album, Magnetic South, is "a minor masterpiece of country-rock," agrees AllMusic reviewer Mark Deming, "and while the Eagles may have sold more records, Nesmith yodels a hell of a lot better than any of them."

3. He wrote Linda Ronstadt's breakout hit. After Nesmith pushed NBC to give The Monkees more musical control, he wrote several "popular deep cuts" for the band, Variety reports, but no hits. After Monkees producers rejected his song "Different Drum," he gave it to Linda Ronstadt. "The song became Ronstadt's first hit when it was recorded in 1967 with the Stone Poneys," the Post reports.

Nesmith recorded his own "beautifully bare version" of this "kiss-off dressed up as a love song" for 1972's And the Hits Just Keep on Comin', Edgers recommends.

4. Nesmith produced the '80s cult classics Repo Man. Nesmith founded the mulitmedia company Pacific Arts in 1974, starting with music and expanding to video and then film. He was executive producer of the 1984 cult comedy Repo Man and co-produced 1988's Tapeheads. Pacific Arts also distributed PBS home videos, including the Ken Burns series The Civil War, in the early 1990s, but that relationship ended in ugly lawsuits (which Nesmith won) and the dissolution of Pacific Arts.

5. And he won the 1st Grammy for music videos. Nesmith also created one of the first music videos to promote his 1976 single "Rio," then launched an MTV precursor called PopClips on Nickelodeon. His 1981 video music collection Elephant Parts won Nesmith the first-ever Grammy for video of the year in 1982.