Austin City Limits was sorry to learn of the passing of singer, songwriter, entrepreneur, music video pioneer and, of course, Monkee Michael Nesmith. He died of heart failure at the age of 78.
The Houston native was a creative lynchpin for the Monkees – the first member to pen original material for the group and the first to insist that the band play its own instruments and choose its own songs. After the Monkees ended in 1970, he formed the First National Band along with steel guitar pioneer Red Rhodes, and became one of the pioneers of country rock with the early seventies albums Magnetic South, Loose Salute, and Nevada Fighter and the singles “Joanne,” “Silver Moon” and “Rio.”
While he continued to record throughout his life, he eventually turned his attention to visual arts, pioneering long-form music video with the Grammy-winning Elephant Parts and forming the company Pacific Arts, which produced, among others, PBS’s acclaimed Ken Burns miniseries The Civil War. Nesmith also produced the cult comedies Tapeheads and Repo Man, produced records for singer/songwriters Iain Matthews, Bert Jansch and Texas’ own Carolyn Wonderland (whose wedding he officiated), wrote a pair of novels and served on the boards of the Gihon Foundation and the American Film Institute. He also participated in Monkees reunion tours, with the band playing its final show in November of this year.
In the midst of all those accomplishments, Nesmith also appeared on Austin City Limits in 1993, opening Season 18. Here’s his closing number, “Rio.”