Daydream Believer’s John Stewart dead at 68

He recorded some of pop music’s most acclaimed solo albums, helping in the process to create a style that came to be called Americana.

Still, throughout his career John Stewart would always remain best known as the man who wrote the Monkees’ most enduring hit, Daydream Believer.

Stewart, who came to prominence in the 1960s as a member of folk music’s Kingston Trio, died on January 19 at a San Diego, California, hospital after suffering a brain aneurism. He was 68.

“He was a lovely man and a very gentle soul and I guess the only thing you can say today is that the world is less one great songwriter,” said the Monkees’ Micky Dolenz on Sunday.

Stewart, who left the Kingston Trio shortly before the Monkees released Daydream Believer in 1967, went on to record nearly four dozen solo albums, including the critically acclaimed California Bloodlines and Bombs Away Dream Babies. The latter included the hit single Gold — a duet with Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks.

But, as with Daydream Believer, he was likely best known for writing songs for others, including Joan Baez, Nanci Griffith, Roseanne Cash and Anne Murray.

“He was a cult hero, he never made it super huge,” said his manager, Dean Swett. “He was one of those outlaw rebels, one of the people who refused to conform to what the record labels expected him to be.”

A husky-voiced singer and accomplished guitarist who delivered his lyrics in a poignant, often longing voice, Stewart’s music was hard to classify. It fell somewhere between rock, country and folk and eventually came to be called Americana.

He wrote Runaway Train, a country hit for Roseanne Cash, and Strange Rivers, which Joan Baez included on her 1992 Play Me Backwards album. Nanci Griffith dueted with him on Sweet Dreams and Murray, like the Monkees before her, had a hit with Daydream Believer.

“There are certain songs that you just go in humming. It was one of those,” Dolenz said of Stewart’s best-known recording. Although he sang background to Davy Jones’ lead on the Monkees’ version, Dolenz performs the song himself at his solo shows.

“To this day it is one of the biggest songs that I do in concert,” he said.

Stewart joined the Kingston Trio in 1961, replacing Dave Guard in the group that had helped usher in an American folk music revival in the late 1950s.

“John truly was the right fit. A first rate entertainer and gifted songwriter,” the group said in a statement on its website.

He recorded more than a dozen albums with the trio before going on to a solo career in 1967.

A year later he released California Bloodlines, which included the minor hit July You’re a Woman. Bombs Away Dream Babies came out in 1979.

He would eventually record more than 40 solo albums. Others included The Lonesome Picker Rides Again, Airdream Believer and Rough

Sketches, the latter a collection of songs about the iconic American highway Route 66. He was said to be at work on still another album at the time of his death.

Stewart’s wife, Buffy, and children were at his side when he died, according to a statement posted on the Kingston Trio’s website. – Sapa-AP

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