John Belushi (January 24, 1949 - March 5, 1982) was an American actor and comedian. John was born in the United States to Adam Belushi, an Albanian immigrant who left his native village, Qytez├ź, in 1934 at the age of 15, with his wife Agnes, who was born in the United States to Albanian immigrants as the oldest of four children. He grew up outside of Chicago in Wheaton, Illinois, where he was a high school football player, and attended the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and the College of DuPage near Chicago. Belushi's brother James Belushi is also a successful actor and comedian.
Belushi's first big break as a comedian occurred in 1971, when he joined The Second City comedy troupe in Chicago, Illinois. Thanks to his uncanny caricature of singer Joe Cocker's intense and jerky stage presence, he participated in National Lampoon's "Lemmings" stage show in 1972 (which also featured future Saturday Night Live performer Chevy Chase).
From 1973 to 1975 the National Lampoon aired the Radio Hour, a half-hour comedy program syndicated across the country on approximately 600 stations. When original director Michael O'Donoghue quit in 1974, Belushi took over the reins until the show was canceled. Other players on the show included future SNL regulars Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Brian Doyle-Murray, Richard Belzer and Chevy Chase. Belushi married Judy Jacklin, an associate producer of the Radio Hour. A number of comic bits first performed on the Radio Hour would be translated into SNL sketches in the show's early seasons.
Belushi achieved national fame with his work on Saturday Night Live, which he joined as one of the original cast members in 1975. Between seasons of the show, he made one of his best-known movies, Animal House. He left Saturday Night Live in 1979 to pursue a film career, and he appeared in a number of movies, including The Blues Brothers (with Dan Aykroyd). Both the Animal House and the Blues Brothers albums went to number 1, making Belushi the only performing artist to concurrently attain momentary greatness in both media.
He was also known to indulge in bouts of drinking and involvement with drugs, which eventually cost him his life. Belushi was found dead on March 5, 1982, at the age of 33, in a hotel room at the Chateau Marmont on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. The cause of death was a speedball, a lethal injection of cocaine and heroin. His death was investigated by forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden, among others, and while there was some dispute in the findings, it was eventually officially ruled a drug-related accident. There was some suspicion of foul play by his companion and drug dealer at the time, Cathy Smith, who was a former groupie for The Band.
John's life is detailed in the 1985 biography "Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi" by Bob Woodward, which was adapted into a feature film. Many friends and relatives of Belushi, including his wife, Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi, boycotted the film, even though they agreed to be interviewed at length for the book.
John Belushi is interred in Abel's Hill Cemetery, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. His tombstone read "I may be gone, but rock n roll lives on."
His widow later remarried and is now Judy Belushi Pisano. Her biography (with co-biographer Tanner Colby) of her late husband, Belushi, a collection of first-person interviews and photographs, was published in 2005.