Davy Jones Knew Curly’s Secret

I don’t know what you thought when you heard Davy Jones died last week. Probably depends on your age. If you’re under 30, you never heard of him. If you’re in your 30’s, your mother had a crush on him. If you’re my age you felt older than you were before you heard the news. Like someone blew out another flame on the candles of your youth when you weren’t looking.

In the movie City Slickers, Curly (Jack Palance) and Mitch (Billy Crystal) are walking their horses, herding cattle.

  • Abruptly, Curly says, “You know what the secret of life is?”
  • Mitch says, “No, what?”
    Curly holds up his index finger and says, “This.”
  • “Your finger?”
  • Curly says, “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean shit.”
  • Mitch says, “That’s great, but…what’s the one thing?”
  • With a twinkle in his eyes, Curly says, “That’s what you’ve got to figure out!”

I couldn’t have told you what that scene meant in 1991 when it was filmed. I was stupid back then, suffering from youthful arrogance. Now I’m closing in on Curly’s age, old and experienced enough to know the “one thing” he spoke about doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all answer. Your “one thing” and mine are probably different. But Davy Jones knew his “one thing,” and his and mine are the same.

I hadn’t thought about Davy in years, except when Daydream Believer played on the radio. I was never a huge Monkees fan, though I did pay to see them perform once, at the height of their popularity. I was more into the Beatles, Stones, Animals, and Blood, Sweat & Tears, but I bought their first album and will admit to liking I Wanna Be Free, sung by…Davy Jones.

Before you give me any crap about teeny bopper music or how “uncool” the Monkees were, or how they were a “made up” band, consider this:

  • Jimi Hendrix opened for them in concert. Jimi flippin’ Hendrix!
  • The Monkees are the only band in music history to have four top 10 albums in the same year!

Davy Jones knew Curly’s “one thing” secret of life. For him (and me) it’s this:

Don’t take yourself too seriously.

When you take yourself too seriously, you miss the joy life tries to send you each day.

Davy’s ego didn’t require him to impress people. He was content to entertain them, perfectly happy in his role of teen idol and member of a made-for-TV band. Unlike his bandmates, he never trash-talked the Monkees or their music, never demanded to be taken seriously as a musician.

It didn’t bother him there were technically better singers in the world. He knew what his fans liked, and did his best to deliver. By all accounts he was a happy person who lived a happy life. Three weeks ago he performed at a casino, and a middle-aged lady asked if he’d pose for a photo. The first two came out blurry, so he graciously posed a third time. That may not seem like a big deal, but can you picture Amy Winehouse or Michael Jackson doing it?

You never read about Davy Jones suffering from depression, drug, or alcohol abuse like so many other teenage stars who stopped being popular. He never had a bad word for others, never turned bitter. He was always proud of who he was. Last year his young wife asked if he’d like to run upstairs and make love. Davy said, “At my age it will have to be one or the other!”

He just wanted to entertain you, wanted to make you smile.

I get that.

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