The untimely death of Davy Jones raises the question of why The Monkees were and are important. They sold millions of records in the late 1960s, but beyond that -The Monkees were the first example of something created in a medium – in this case, a rock group on television – that jumped off the screen to have big impact in the real world. The Monkees didn’t exist prior to their television series. They didn’t play clubs, didn’t make demos, didn’t play at all because they didn’t exist, prior to NBC’s television show, which ran for two successful seasons from 1966-1968.
But the group sold real records to real people, and paved the way for all subsequent media creations that moved through the screen and out into the real world. Not only groups like The Partridge Family and The Archies (which were cartoon characters with a million-selling record), but more recent creations of new media which crossed over in the real world owe a tip of the hat to The Monkees. These range from Julie Powell’s blog which served as one of the inspirations for the 2009 movie Julie & Julia, to Justin Halpern’s Twitter feed “Shit My Dad Says” which gave rise to the 2010 CBS series $#*! My Dad Says and the best-selling book Sh*t My Dad Says, to Tucker Max’s blog which begat the best selling book I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell (2006).
The Monkees hit in more gentle times. Strange to think of the 1960s as gentle, but they were in many ways, compared to now. Davy Jones’ “Daydream Believer” – written by John Stewart, of Kingston Trio fame- was always my favorite Monkees song. Hey, Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, wake up and induct The Monkees. It’s too late now for Davy, but his memory and the rest of The Monkees deserve this.
Paul Levinson, PhD, is Professor of Communication & Media Studies at Fordham University in NYC. His nonfiction books, including The Soft Edge (1997), Digital McLuhan (1999), Realspace (2003), Cellphone (2004), and New New Media (2009), have been translated into ten languages. He reviews television in his InfiniteRegress.tv blog, and was listed in The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s “Top 10 Academic Twitterers” in 2009. Follow him @PaulLev
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