Paul Leka, a songwriter and producer who worked with many recording stars but who was best known for writing the chanting chorus of "Na...
Paul Leka, a songwriter and producer who worked with many recording stars but who was best known for writing the chanting chorus of “Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye),” a No. 1 hit in 1969 that was reborn in the 1970s as a sports-arena anthem, died Oct. 12 in a hospice near his home in Sharon, Conn. He was 68. The cause was lung cancer, said his brother, George.
Mr. Leka made his name in the Tin Pan Alley tradition, writing or arranging songs for other people. He wrote and produced “Green Tambourine,” a No. 1 hit in 1967 for the psychedelic soft-rock band the Lemon Pipers and signed REO Speedwagon to its first record contract.
In 1969, Mr. Leka was helping a longtime friend from Bridgeport, Conn., Gary DeCarlo, fill the B-side of a single he was recording They started with a song they had written years before, a bluesy shuffle called “Kiss Him Goodbye.”
But it filled only two minutes of playing time, and to make sure disc jockeys would not play it — instead of DeCarlo’s A-side — they decided to add a chorus to stretch it to four minutes, beyond the time limit of most radio formats.
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“I started writing while I was sitting at the piano, going ‘na na na na, na na na na … ‘ ” Mr. Leka told Fred Bronson, author of “The Billboard Book of Number One Hits.” “Everything was ‘na-na’ when you didn’t have a lyric.” DeCarlo added the “hey hey.” The record company decided to release it nonetheless as the A-side of a 45 by Steam, a fictitious group name the two men invented for the record. The song reached No. 1 in late 1969
In 1977, the organist for the Chicago White Sox, Nancy Faust, began using the song to stoke the crowd into taunting the opposing team. Within a few years, the chant had become an anthem of sports conquest.