Happy Birthday to Peter Tork of the Monkees, who turns 71 today (February 13th)!!! Prior to moving to Los Angeles and being cast in the Monkees in late 1965, Tork -- whose real name is Thorkelston -- had made a name for himself in the Greenwich Village folk scene, performing with various members of the Lovin' Spoonful and briefly dating "Mama" Cass Elliot. It was Stephen Stills, a friend from his folk days, who convinced him to audition for the Monkees pilot.
In 2009, Tork underwent surgery for Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma -- a cancer that usually grows slowly on a person's head and neck. He's since undergone radiation treatment and made a full recovery.
During his four year-stint in the band, Tork sang lead on several of the group's album tracks, including, "Auntie Grizelda" and "Shades Of Gray." Out of all the group's members -- Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, and Mike Nesmith -- Tork was by far the most musically accomplished, playing guitar, bass, banjo and keyboards during the group's '60s shows and recording sessions.
However, it was Tork's songwriting, on such tracks as the Monkees' outgoing theme song, "For Pete's Sake," and "Can You Dig It?" from their 1968 Head soundtrack, that made him stand apart from his more popular bandmates.
Shortly before his 2012 death, Davy Jones told us that despite all of his personal problems with Tork over the years, he can't deny that above all else, he's a great songwriter: "Peter Tork sang (and) wrote a couple of great songs. His having that song, 'For Pete's Sake' as the (theme song at the) start of the second season -- now unbeknownst to me, that's why he owns a piece of a building in New York! As unpredictable and tiresome as he becomes -- he still is a great songwriter."
Tork left the group in 1969, and went on to battle substance abuse. In the '70s he worked a variety of jobs, including teaching algebra at a private school in California and performing as a singing waiter.
He was on hand for every one of the group's reunions since 1986, until -- according to Jones -- he was fired from the group by Dolenz and tour promoter David Fishoff in 2001. Tork was on hand for the Monkees' 2011 45th anniversary tour as well as his and Micky Dolenz' 2012 mini-tour reunion with Mike Nesmith.
Photo Courtesy of PRPhotos.com