He began his recording career with a two singles recorded under the name Michael Blessing, and later one of his songs, "Different Drum," was successfully recorded by Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys. Then from 1966-1969 he was a member of the pop rock band The Monkees, which was created for a television situation comedy also called The Monkees.
As a member of the group, Nesmith's trademark was that he always wore a wool cap. He was "the smart Monkee", much as John Lennon was "the smart Beatle".
After leaving the group, Nesmith went on to record a number of critically acclaimed record albums, first of all with the First National Band, then the Second National Band, and finally as a solo artist. His 1977 album, From A Radio Engine To The Photon Wing, included the hit single "Rio". He created a television program called Pop Clips for the Nickelodeon cable network, and that idea was later developed into the MTV network. Nesmith won the first Grammy Award given for video for his hour-long Elephant Parts and also had a short-lived series inspired by the video called "Television Parts." He produced the movie Repo Man as well as his own solo recording and film projects. In 1998, Nesmith published his first novel, The Long Sandy Hair of Neftoon Zamora.
Since 1990, Nesmith has hosted the Council on Ideas, a gathering of intellectuals from different fields who are asked to brainstorm solutions to world problems.