Final Note: Terry Harrington

Life Member. Alto/Tenor Saxophone
7/27/1938 – 7/20/2022

Terry Harrington passed away on July 20, 2022, after a week in hospice care. A heart transplant in December 2001 allowed him to fulfill all his personal and professional ambitions.

Terry was born in Detroit, Michigan, on July 27, 1938, and met the love of his life, Ellen, when he was 13. As a boy, Terry loved baseball and music. He pitched a no-hitter at Briggs Stadium in the 1956 Michigan State Championship game. Terry was also an accomplished woodwind musician, ultimately becoming his chosen profession. Terry and Ellen married on August 20, 1960, and he graduated from Wayne State University in 1963. The family is grateful that he had 20 years and seven months with his transplanted heart, a gift of life that allowed him to enjoy countless memories, including the birth of five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Terry is survived by his wife of 61 years, Ellen Jonsson Harrington, children Kevin Harrington (Kathy) and Kim Clayton (Robert), grandchildren Christopher Troike, Megan Trotter (Miles), Kelley Harrington, Tom Harrington, and Steven Clayton, and great-granddaughter, Lily Trotter. 

Terry enjoyed an illustrious 65-year career in the music industry. He performed and recorded with most Motown artists in the 60s and was the musical director and band leader at the famous Roostertail on the Detroit River, supporting the greatest entertainers in America. Early in his life, he was a staff musician at WJR (CBS) Radio, doing daily shows.

In 1969, the family followed Motown’s move to Los Angeles. Terry became a highly sought-after studio musician doing TV, movie, and live performance work in Hollywood, L.A., and Las Vegas. He was an extraordinary jazz artist and published a highly acclaimed book on advanced jazz improvisation and polytonality called “The Way I See It.” In 1997, Terry released a Grammy-nominated jazz album, “Comin’Atcha.” He was also a Screen Actors Guild (SAG/AFTRA) member and played roles on “Days of Our Lives” and “Modern Family.” However, his most famous role was being the longtime baritone saxophone voice of Lisa Simpson on the Fox TV show, “The Simpsons.” “The Simpsons” show (now Disney) recently honored Terry’s contributions in the closing credits by giving him his own Simpson character likeness.

A private memorial service will take place in October 2022. Memorial donations are welcome in Terry’s name to Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, One Legacy, or the American Heart Association.