One of The Monkees wrote a song called “Different Drum.” A famous musician changed it considerably and it became Linda Ronstadt’s breakthrough song. Subsequently, two of The Monkees released vastly different versions of “Different Drum,” one of which was supposed to sound like the original version of the song.
Which of The Monkees wrote Linda Ronstadt’s ‘Different Drum’?
Michael Nesmith of The Monkees penned the song “Different Drum.” He took it to the producers of The Monkees’ sitcom, who felt it did not match the band’s style. Ultimately, The Stone Poneys and Ronstadt recorded a version of the song which became a hit, peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100.
According to Ultimate Classic Rock, Nesmith left The Monkees in 1970. He then devoted his energy to the country-rock group The First National Band for a while before having a solo career. He included a version of “Different Drum” on his solo album And the Hits Just Keep on Comin’. Nesmith’s “Different Drum” was acoustic and sparse, whereas Ronstadt’s rendition was a polished pop song.
During an interview with Rebeat, Nesmith discussed his take on “Different Drum.” “Well, that was the way I wrote the song — the way it is on Hits,” he said. “It’s got the twang, and it’s got the balance, and it’s got all that stuff. That’s real kind of mountain music. That’s home-style backyard, a hot Saturday afternoon, and fruit jars full of ice tea.”
How Linda Ronstadt’s version of the song compared to Mike Nesmith’s
Nesmith then explained why his “Different Drum” was so distinct from Ronstadt’s.” “I sang ‘Different Drum’ for John Herald of The Greenbriar Boys like that [as an acoustic song],” he recalled. “He took it home and turned it into the ballad that it became. Linda heard the ballad and made us all rich. So it was great, fantastic.”
While Ronstadt’s “Different Drum” was a hit, Nesmith’s “Different Drum” did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100. And the Hits Just Keep on Comin’ didn’t chart on the Billboard 200 either. While some of Nesmith’s post-Monkees work, like the song “Joanne,” was modestly popular, he never recaptured the success of The Monkees.
Why The Monkees’ Micky Dolenz covered the song
Nesmith wasn’t the only member of The Monkees to cover “Different Drum.” Micky Dolenz did as well for the album Dolenz Sings Nesmith. The album included Dolenz’s covers of songs Nesmith wrote. During an interview with Rock Cellar Magazine, Dolenz explained how Nesmith’s son, Christian, helped him reimagine “Different Drum.”
“Christian said, ‘Let me give it a shot,'” Dolenz said. “And I love his take on it. I love the arrangement and I love the feel and it’s not like a rap version [laughs]. It still has the ‘Different Drum’ feel, but it’s not Linda Ronstadt either.” Dolenz’s version of the song is an energetic country track.
While The Stone Poneys and Ronstadt made “Different Drum” a hit, Nesmith and Dolenz put unique spins on the track.