Tommy Boyce was one of the most successful and influential songwriters of the 1960s and 1970s. He was best known for his partnership with Bobby Hart, with whom he wrote dozens of hits for The Monkees, as well as other artists like Andy Williams, Dean Martin, The Animals, and Del Shannon. He also had a successful career as a singer and performer, both with Hart and as a solo artist. But behind his cheerful and catchy tunes, there was a dark side that eventually led him to take his own life in 1994. What was the cause of death of Tommy Boyce, and what were the factors that contributed to his tragic demise?
Early Success and Fame
Tommy Boyce was born Sidney Thomas Boyce on September 29, 1939, in Charlottesville, Virginia. He showed an early interest in music and started writing songs when he was a teenager. His first big break came when he wrote “Be My Guest” for Fats Domino in 1959, which became a top 10 hit in the US and the UK. He shared the writing credit with Domino and another songwriter, but he didn’t mind because it opened the door for more opportunities.
In 1962, he moved to New York and teamed up with Bobby Hart, who was also an aspiring singer and songwriter. They hit it off immediately and started writing songs for various artists, such as “Pretty Little Angel Eyes” for Curtis Lee, “Come a Little Bit Closer” for Jay and the Americans, and “Hurt So Bad” for Little Anthony and the Imperials. They also recorded some of their own songs, but they didn’t have much success as performers at that time.
Their big break came in 1965, when they were hired by music producer Don Kirshner to write songs for a new TV show called The Monkees. The show was about four young men who formed a band and had various adventures. The actors who played the band members were not musicians themselves, so Kirshner wanted professional songwriters to provide them with catchy and commercial songs. Boyce and Hart were perfect for the job, as they had a knack for writing upbeat and melodic tunes that appealed to the young audience.
Boyce and Hart wrote many of the Monkees’ biggest hits, such as “Last Train to Clarksville”, “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone”, “Valleri”, “Words”, and “The Monkees Theme (Hey, Hey, We’re the Monkees)”. They also produced some of their albums and even appeared on the show as guest stars. They became very close friends with the Monkees, especially with Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones, who often sang their songs.
The Monkees were a huge phenomenon in the late 1960s, selling millions of records and attracting millions of fans. Boyce and Hart also benefited from their association with them, as they became famous and wealthy in their own right. They decided to form their own act as singers and performers, signing a deal with A&M Records in 1967. They had several hits as a duo, such as “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight”, “Alice Long (You’re Still My Favorite Girlfriend)”, “I’m Gonna Blow You a Kiss in the Wind”, and “Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows”. They also appeared on TV shows like Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, and The Flying Nun.
Political Activism and Personal Problems
Boyce and Hart were not only successful musicians, but also socially conscious and politically active. In 1968, they supported Robert F. Kennedy’s campaign for president, performing at his rallies and events. They also spearheaded a movement called “Let Us Vote” or “L.U.V.”, which aimed to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 in the US. They wrote a song with the same title and organized concerts and demonstrations to raise awareness and support for their cause. They succeeded in their goal when the 26th Amendment was ratified in 1971.
However, not everything was going well for Boyce and Hart. Their popularity as performers declined in the early 1970s, as their style of music was overshadowed by harder rock and more experimental sounds. They also had conflicts with their record label over creative control and royalties. They decided to part ways with A&M Records in 1973 and formed their own label called First American Records.
They also had personal problems that affected their mental health and well-being. Boyce suffered from depression and anxiety, which he tried to cope with by using drugs and alcohol. He also had marital troubles with his wife Caroline, whom he married in 1962 and had three children with. He had several affairs with other women, including actress Joan Collins, who later wrote about their relationship in her autobiography. Hart also had his share of difficulties, as he divorced his first wife and remarried twice.
Reunion and Suicide
Boyce and Hart remained friends and collaborators throughout the 1970s and 1980s, even though they pursued different projects and careers. They reunited with the Monkees in 1976, when they joined Dolenz and Jones in a tour called “The Great Golden Hits of the Monkees Show”. They also wrote and produced songs for other artists, such as Iggy Pop, Meat Loaf, and Shaun Cassidy.
In 1986, Boyce and Hart released a new album called Action, which was their first in 13 years. They also appeared on a TV special called The Monkees: 20th Anniversary Celebration, where they performed some of their songs with the Monkees. They continued to tour and perform together until the early 1990s.
However, Boyce’s mental health deteriorated over the years, as he struggled with depression, addiction, and financial problems. He also suffered a brain aneurysm in 1993, which left him partially paralyzed and unable to speak. He became despondent and hopeless, feeling that he had nothing to live for.
On November 23, 1994, Boyce shot himself in the head with a handgun at his home in Nashville, Tennessee. He was 55 years old. He left a note for his wife Caroline, but the contents were never made public. His death was ruled a suicide by the coroner.
Boyce’s death shocked and saddened his family, friends, fans, and colleagues. He was remembered as a talented and prolific songwriter who made a lasting impact on pop music and culture. He was also praised for his generosity, kindness, and humor. He was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, California.
Hart was devastated by his partner’s death, calling him “the brother I never had”. He continued to write and perform music, as well as to promote Boyce’s legacy. He also became involved in various charitable causes, such as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). He wrote a memoir called Psychedelic Bubble Gum: Boyce & Hart, The Monkees, and Turning Mayhem into Miracles, which was published in 2015.
Tommy Boyce cause of death was a tragic end to a remarkable life. He left behind a rich and diverse body of work that continues to inspire and entertain generations of listeners. He also left behind a message of love and peace that resonates with his fans and admirers. As he once sang in one of his songs: “We’ve got to get together now / We’ve got to make it happen somehow / We’ve got to spread some love around / We’ve got to let us vote”.