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During the height of their fame in the 1960s, The Monkees released a song called “Mary, Mary.” Decades later, Run-DMC released their very different take on the song. What did The Monkees’ Mike Nesmith think about the new version of “Mary, Mary” — and which version was more popular?

The Monkees near a Monkees poster
The Monkees | James Jackson/Evening Standard/Getty Images

Why The Monkees’ Mike Nesmith wrote ‘Mary, Mary’

The Monkees have a reputation for being a band that didn’t write their own songs. While some of their biggest hits were written by others, members of the band did write some of their songs. For example, Nesmith wrote “Mary, Mary.”

“I hadn’t been writing long, but I was interested in finding a place that was between country and blues,” Nesmith told Rolling Stone. “At the time, I was working for Randy Sparks. He had started a publishing company after his success with the New Christy Minstrels, who were a folk-rock band. He hired me as a writer, and one day in his office, I wrote ‘Mary Mary.’ Frazier Mohawk took it to the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and they recorded it.”

The Butterfield Blues Band’s “Mary, Mary”

Afterward, Nesmith explained how “Mary, Mary” became a Monkees song. “Randy then sold my catalog to Screens Gems Columbia Music, which was the music catalog for The Monkees television show,” he recalled. “They picked it to go on the second record. That was all fine, but they didn’t want me to play or sing on it. ‘They’ being Screen Gems, which was run by Don Kirshner.” The track appeared on The Monkees’ sophomore album, More of the Monkees.

The Monkees’ “Mary, Mary”

How The Monkees’ Mike Nesmith reacted to Run-DMC’s ‘Mary, Mary’

Rap group Run-DMC released a cover of “Mary, Mary” in 1988. It was included on the album Tougher Than Leather and was co-produced by Rick Rubin.

Nesmith revealed what he thought of Run-DMC’s cover. “I just loved their take on it,” he said. “They changed around the lyrics some, but I didn’t care. The song isn’t exactly deep.”

How the world reacted to The Monkees’ and Run-DMC’s versions of ‘Mary, Mary’

Nesmith clearly enjoyed Run-DMC’s version of “Mary, Mary.” This raises an interesting question: Which version of the song performed better on the charts? The Monkees’ rendition was not released as a single in the United States, so it did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100. However, its parent album, More of the Monkees, peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

Run-DMC’s “Mary, Mary”

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On the other hand, Run-DMC’s “Mary, Mary” was released as a single in the United States and hit No. 75 on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s one of only five Run-DMC singles to chart, alongside “Walk This Way,” “It’s Tricky,” “Down With the King,” and “You Be Illin’.” In addition, the cover’s parent album, Tougher Than Leather, reached No. 9 on the Billboard 200. Nesmith liked Run-DMC’s version of the song — and it seemed to resonate with the public to some degree.