A staple of Chicago’s music scene in the 1980s, Kezdy died from injuries sustained in a bicycle crash
John Kezdy, the singer in Chicago punk band the Effigies, has died, reports Streetsblog Chicago, citing the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office. According to the report, Kezdy died on Saturday, August 26, from injuries sustained after crashing his bicycle into a van stopped in a bike lane on Wednesday in Glencoe, Illinois. He was 64 years old.
Born in 1959, John F. Kezdy he was quick to fall in love with rock and punk as a kid, as was his older brother, Pierre, who would go on to become the bassist in Naked Raygun and Strike Under. John Kezdy considered himself to be a shy student while attending Evanston Township High School and the University of Wisconsin, but, after completing one year of college, he decided to join the Effigies as their boisterous lead singer. According to Kezdy, he stepped up to the position because nobody else was interested in doing so.
The Effigies formed in 1980 with guitarist Earl Letiecq, bassist Paul Zamost, and drummer Steve Economou. They made a name for themselves in Chicago as one of the few local punk bands of the time, blending together influences like Killing Joke, the Buzzcocks, and Sex Pistols for an effortlessly cool take on punk and post-hardcore. With a melodic yet energetic tone, Kezdy often sang about local politics, hypocrisy, and corruption. Their debut EP, 1981’s Haunted Town, helped popularize the use of the Chicago flag—which is partially displayed on the cover art—as a signifier of cultural pride in the underground. They founded their own label, Ruthless Records, that same year.
“That first Sex Pistols record told me to get up and do it. I pumped gas to save money and dropped out of school because I had to be in a band,” Kezdy told the Chicago Tribune in 1990. “Most bands are afraid to stand up and say, ‘This is what I really believe in.’ The real reason to be in a band is to put yourself in a community. And if not, to create one around you.”
After releasing another EP in 1983 and their debut album, For Ever Grounded, in 1984, the Effigies sought a new guitarist, with Minor Threat’s Lyle Preslar inquiring about joining before Robert O’Connor was hired. The band subsequently released 1985’s Fly on a Wire and 1986’s Ink, both on major independent labels.
The Effigies broke up in 1990, but Kezdy reunited the group later that decade with a new lineup: guitarist Chris Bjorkland, bassist Tom Woods, and drummer Joe Haggerty. The band began playing shows again and would go on to release the 1996 live album V.M.Live, as well as a new studio album, 2007’s Reside, and the 2012 EP …On the Move, or in Danger (Stop) This Will Have Been My Life (Stop). Kezdy also played in the brief band the Corrosives.
Before the Effigies’ initial breakup, Kezdy returned to school, graduating from Northwestern University in 1988. He also got his law degree from DePaul College of Law in 1991 and went on to work as a prosecutor with the Illinois state’s attorney’s office in Kankakee.
Artists have paid tribute to Kezdy on social media, including Silkworm’s Tim Midyett and Pelican’s Trevor Shelley de Brauw. “John Kezdy was a hero of mine,” wrote Steve Albini. “Effigies were the first great band from Chicago’s scene, his stern, declamatory style influenced a generation and he helped me in material ways. Not overstating to say that without John and the Effigies, I would never have made any records.”
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