Remembering Chicago Punk Legend John Kezdy, Lead Singer For The Effigies

The Chicago punk community, and the punk world at large, were shocked by the sudden death of The Effigies lead singer John Kezdy on August 26, 2023. Kezdy, 64, died in Glencoe, Ill, in a bicycle crash with a delivery truck stopped in the bike lane. He is also being mourned by the legal community in Illinois, as post-music career he became a longtime and well-respected prosecutor.

Per John Kezdy’s obituary,

Born in Belgium in 1959, he immigrated to the U.S. in 1962 with his parents. Kezdy graduated from Evanston Township High School and attended University of Wisconsin for a year before his brief, but intense, stint as the frontman for a punk band The Effigies in the 1980s, during which he toured the U.S. and Canada in a van and contributed to several record albums. Later, he earned his B.A. in English from Northwestern University in 1988 and his Juris Doctor from DePaul University College of Law in 1991. 

Kezdy was a devoted family man as his obituary further noted,

Beloved husband of 24 years to Erica Weeder, devoted father of Lena and Lucas Kezdy. Brother of André (Cheryl Jewett) Kezdy, PhD. and the late Pierre (Heather Sheedy) Kezdy. Loving uncle of Claire, Annelise, Nicole, Mary, Peter, and Ivan Kezdy and Mirabai Gould. Son of the late Marie-Thérèse (nee Colas) and Ferenc “Francois” Jano Kezdy, PhD.”

In 2022, Kezdy, and his wife were among the survivors of the mass shooting that occurred at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, IL which claimed the lives of six others.

His death occurred just under 3 years after his brother Pierre Kezdy, also a Chicago punk legend, passed away from cancer on October 9, 2020. Pierre, the younger of the Kezdy brothers, was a member of several bands, including Naked Raygun and Pegboy.

One of the people close to Kezdy was his good friend, and bandmate in The Effigies, Joe Haggerty. Joe is now drummer for Pegboy, the band for which his brother John Haggerty is the guitarist. The two sets of brothers, the Kezdys and the Haggertys, were, and are influential members from the early punk scene in Chicago.

I spoke with Joe Haggerty via phone earlier this month. He shared with me, stories and reflections of John Kezdy.

Haggerty was not an original member of The Effigies but he became an integral part of the band. At the time Haggerty was part of the band, the other members were Kezdy, guitar player Earl Letiecq and Chris Bjorklund, first on bass and then later, on guitar.

” I grew up on Effigies and Articles of Faith and bands like that and I just looked up to John Kezdy like he was THE fucking man back then you know when I was a teenager. And I was also petrified of him because he was really mean-looking. Turns out he is one of the nicest guys I ever met. So being in a band with someone you idolized for years and years and then being in a band and playing their music with them and realizing what a solid fucking dude he is you know it was just you know just incredible. That’s as good as it gets for me you. I don’t want to meet any fucking rock stars. I could care less about you know rock idols and shit like that. 

Haggerty added,

The coolest thing about punk rock is that I had this cool relationship with this fucking idol of the punk rock scene. I mean not recognized by the rock and roll hall of fame but who fucking cares.” 

Him and his brother, they should get awards because when there was nothing. I saw them in a fucking meat locker on Fulton Street. First time I saw them. It stunk like meat too because it was literally a meat locker. It was called the Space Place I think. Anyway, yeah I was just blown away. Every show my brother took me to I was fucking blown away. To this day that’s what drives me, I’m fucking 57 years old and I still love playing in punk rock bands.

Haggerty shared a memory from life on the road with The Effigies he still finds amusing,

I actually have one story, a funny story, The Effigies are on our first tour with me and Chris Bjorklund as the new members.

It’s a low-budget tour, so low-budget that John bought an old Pontiac Bonneville station wagon. It’s like the real deal, kind of like you know station wagon. We were on a shoe-string budget and we literally slept outside at a truck stop and Earl is sleeping on the hood of this fucking Pontiac station wagon

Before the tour, John took the station wagon and pulled the air conditioning unit out of it. He said it was going to be so much better on gas. But I did not know this, but Earl he would be sweating if he was in an igloo in the Arctic Circle. He’s just one of those guys who sweats all the time and so I’m in the back seat and I’m pretty sure he did it just to piss Earl off and I’m in the back seat swimming next to Earl.”

It was fucking deadly hot on the east coast. It was a funny kind of a ball-breaking thing.

I expressed solidarity with Earl on the subject of air conditioning,

“Yeah, well we all were with Earl. John took the whole compressor out and left that at home”

Haggerty reflected on the past few years for the Kezdy family,

It’s one fucking tragedy after the other for that family. Pierre, you know I still have a hard time talking about it. We were buddies on tour, we were best buddies.

A funeral mass for John Kezdy will be held on the morning of October 14, 2023, at Christ Our Hope Parish, in Chicago. A devout Catholic, Kezdy served as an usher in the Parish.

We, at Dying Scene, extend our deepest condolences to the Kezdy family, his friends, and to all who loved John Kezdy.

Photo of The Effigies by Brian Shanley.

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