John Kezdy, punk singer and Illinois prosecutor, is dead at 64 after bicycle crash in Glencoe

He rocked hard with the Effigies, oversaw grand juries for the state attorney general’s office and survived the Highland Park Fourth of July parade massacre with a graze wound.

SHARE John Kezdy, punk singer and Illinois prosecutor, is dead at 64 after bicycle crash in Glencoe
John Kezdy.

John Kezdy.


John Kezdy, the singer for the Chicago punk rock band the Effigies and a longtime prosecutor with the Illinois attorney general’s office, died Saturday, three days after he was riding his bicycle in Glencoe and struck an Amazon van that was stopped along a roadway.

Mr. Kezdy, an avid cyclist who lived in Highland Park, was pedaling along Sheridan Road on Wednesday in the intense afternoon heat of last week when he slammed into the back of the delivery van, which was stopped with its hazard lights flashing, according to Andrew Perley, deputy chief of the Glencoe police department.

It’s unclear why Mr. Kezdy, who had a clear line of sight and continued pedaling to the point of impact, didn’t brake or swerve to avoid the van, according to Perley, who said investigators have video showing the accident.

Mr. Kezdy, who died at Evanston Hospital, was 64.

No citations have been issued. Perley said heat might have been a factor.

Mr. Kezdy, a graduate of Evanston Township High School, formed the Effigies in 1980 after dropping out of the University of Wisconsin. The band played Chicago clubs and toured the United States in a van. The Effigies recorded three albums of original songs, including “Body Bag,” while making a name for themselves between 1980 and 1986, when the band broke up.

The group earned a measure of fame playing alongside bands including Hüsker Dü, Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Toy Dolls and Naked Raygun, a band that featured Mr. Kezdy’s late brother Pierre Kezdy.

The Effigies even opened for Run-DMC once at the Vic Theatre.

But they never had the kind of commercial success that would have allowed them to quit their day jobs, band member Paul Zamost said.

Mr. Kezdy finished college, earned a law degree from Northwestern University and became a prosecutor.

The group got back together in the late 1990s for reunion shows and again in the 2000s and decided to give it another shot in 2021, according to Zamost.

The band was putting finishing touches on a new album and was scheduled to rehearse on the evening Mr. Kezdy was fatally injured.

The group hoped to begin playing gigs again and perhaps fulfill a bucket list dream of touring Europe, Zamost said.

Mr. Kezdy came up with the title of their unreleased album: “Swift Sure Severe.”

“That was John being a lawyer,” Zamost said. “That’s how he wanted justice to be. It’s kind of ironic that’s the way he went out.”

Mr. Kezdy ran the statewide grand jury bureau of the attorney general’s office before retiring last year.

“I played in a band with probably the only lead singer who put someone in jail,” Zamost said.

Mr. Kezdy was at Highland Park’s Fourth of July parade last year when a man opened fire, killing seven people. Mr. Kezdy suffered a graze wound to his arm, and his wife had a shrapnel wound.

He requested one day off work. His supervisor suggested he take more time, but Mr. Kezdy said he refused to allow the gunman to interrupt his life, according to a former colleague at the attorney general’s office.

Mr. Kezdy and drummer Steve Economou, a longtime friend, were hanging out at Neo in 1979, a Lincoln Park nightclub that was the center of the city’s punk scene, when they met Zamost, a bass player.

“We were just kind of hanging out when John and Steve came by with leather jackets,” Zamost said. “John always sort of had an attitude, and I was, like, ‘There’s a good guy to be in a band with. He’s got a bad attitude.’ ”

Though punk rock had an anti-authority message at its core and many of its icons died from drug abuse, Mr. Kezdy saw no conflict between playing it and representing the state in criminal cases.

“I’ve never seen punk rock as being synonymous with breaking the law,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times in 2007. “To me, the basic things that I admire in punk rock, they end up being kind of old conservative values: independence, complete self-reliance.”

Former Sun-Times music critic Jim DeRogatis wrote in 1999 that the Effigies made a significant mark on the punk scene: “Punk rock emerged in the late ’70s as a reaction against right-wing politics and as a musical alternative to the bloated, soulless sounds that had come to dominate the pop charts. By the mid-’80s, a second generation of Midwestern punks was introducing a new sophistication to the music while continuing to voice their anger at the status quo.

“Leading the charge in Chicago: Naked Raygun, the Effigies and Big Black ... The ground that Naked Raygun and the Effigies broke would help pave the way for the alternative explosion of the mid-’90s, which saw homegrown talents such as the Smashing Pumpkins, Urge Overkill, Liz Phair and Veruca Salt win major national success.”

Mr. Kezdy found his love for punk rock after hearing the Sex Pistols’ “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols.”

“That album changed my life,” Kezdy told the Sun-Times. “It wasn’t just the music. It was the whole attitude.”

Funeral services are being arranged.

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