'Na Na Hey Hey' Writer Paul Leka Passes
October 24, 2011 at 3:22 PM (PT)
Songwriter/producer PAUL LEKA, who was best known for writing the chanting chorus of the 1969 #1 hit, "Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)," died on Oct. 12th in a hospice near his home in SHARON, CT, the NY TIMES reports. Lung cancer is reported to be LEKA's cause of death, who was 68 years old.
LEKA started in the business writing or arranging songs for others, including writing and producing the 1967 #1 hit, "Green Tambourine," for THE LEMON PIPERS. Other credits included signing REO SPEEDWAGON and producing four HARRY CHAPIN albums, including 1974’s #1 hit, "Cat’s in the Cradle."
In 1969, LEKA helped longtime friend GARY DECARLO, fill the B-side of a single he was recording for BUDDAH RECORDS. They started with a bluesy shuffle they had written years before, called "Kiss Him Goodbye." But it was only two minutes long, and to turn off disc jockeys from playing it -- instead of the A-side -- they decided to add a chorus to stretch it to four minutes, beyond hit radio's typical "time limit." The "na-na-na" part was originally dummy lyrics that was supposed to be traded out for real verse, but they decided to keep them in to ensure DJ alienation.
The duo came up with a fake band name, STEAM, but the label decided to release "Na Na Hey Hey" as the A-side -- and the song hit the top of the charts. It later enjoyed a second life when the organist for the CHICAGO WHITE SOX, NANCY FAUST, began using the song so the crowd could serenade visiting team players if they struck out or when opposing pitchers were removed. Within a few years, the chant had become an anthem during games in multiple sports.