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The tragic death of Terry Kath, Chicago’s guitarist

The tragic death of Chicagos guitarist Terry Kath


The tragic death of Terry Kath, Chicago’s guitarist

Chicago is one of the most talented bands in rock history and guitarist Terry Kath was an important part of their career. Mixing rock and roll, jazz and many other genres the band created a unique sound. However, Kath’s tragic death prevented him from evolving even more with the band in 1978.


Terry Kath was one of those poorly understood composers who had everything in their music, but did not have the opportunity to showcase their creations. With blond hair and a great musical taste, he felt he was born for the stage.

Terry Kath

Born in Chicago, Illinois, the young man was born into a musical family in January 1946. His brother played the drums and his mother was good with the banjo. So it was only natural that little Terry wanted to also play those instruments.

Terry Kath discovers his love for Rock music

The boy, however, showed an enormous talent for the guitar and for some vocals that only he could do. From a very young age, he taught himself to play and, with his amplifier, fell in love with the chords used in rock music.

Inspired by artists like Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, young Terry went through several musical groups until he founded the rock band Chicago Transit Authority. Along with his colleagues, the singer shortened the group’s name to Chicago in 1969.

Terry Kath and Peter Cetera

For years, Terry was responsible for the music in the Chicago repertoire. One of their greatest creations, even, was included in the band’s first album. Called Introduction, the track was a mix of jazz, blues, salsa, rock and pop chords – a production as eclectic as the composer.

He created several guitar solos never seen before in bands similar to Chicago. But, like many other artists, Terry began to decline.

Kath’s decline

According to his bandmates, Terry was increasingly unhappy with his life and career, despite the Chicago’s success. He had alcohol problems, not to mention his drug history.

The composer, of course, never stopped creating his songs, but he also didn’t feel as well as before. Terry, however, was never suicidal. He never thought of attempting his own life.

In 1978, however, the artist began to put his life at risk. At that time, the lively and creative guitarist had an unyielding passion for weapons. He always carried revolvers and loved to shoot.

The tragic death of Terry Kath

Terry Kath death

In this way, comical and inconsequential, Terry played a fatal joke on January 23, 1978. While putting his 38 caliber revolver on his finger, the composer listened to his friends asking him to stop. But he didn’t.

On the contrary, when he saw the frightened look of his colleagues, he aimed the gun at his head and pulled the trigger. A sigh of relief could be heard. The gun was not loaded. But Terry wasn’t even close to finishing the crazy game.

With a second firearm, a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol, the singer said to his friends: “Don’t worry, it’s not loaded, see?”. It was his last words. Terry fell to the ground, unconscious, instantly killed by the weapon he didn’t know was loaded. The accidental shot, caused by the artist himself, took his life eight days before his 32nd birthday.

Chicago members were devastated by the vocalist’s death and thought about ending the band. But were demotivated by their director. Terry, for his part, left friends, words and feelings behind, along with his promising career.

I am a Brazilian journalist, a Classic Rock and Heavy Metal lover. Music has always been part of my life, helped me through tough moments and was with me to celebrate the good ones. When I became a journalist I knew I wanted to write about my passions. After college I did a postgraduate degree in digital communication. This has helped me to make the website better and bring the best of classic rock to the world! MTB: 0021377/MG

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