The song is “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,” and while some may not know it by that name, who doesn’t know the immortal chorus:
“Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, hey, goodbye.”
The song was last in the news in May when Democrats sang it to House Republicans, waving goodbye to them after they passed the American Health Care Act, the replacement for Obamacare.
As its use by the Democrats suggested, it wasn’t a friendly goodbye but a taunt. It was a “you’re outta here,” “you’re finished” kind of goodbye.
For Gary DeCarlo, one of the song’s co-writers, the revival in Congress was a sweet moment. Confined to a hospice with lung cancer and forgotten over the years, reporters called him up. He was thrilled when the Democrats sang his song, he said, not for partisan reasons but because “it’s exposure,” he told MyNewsLa.
While his song became famous, he had not. “Na na hey hey” soared to the top of the charts in 1969. But for DeCarlo, that was pretty much it.
DeCarlo died this week at the age of 75.
The announcement, by a close friend, did not specify the exact date of his death.
DeCarlo and the song’s co-creators never expected much of it. It was what they used to call a “throwaway song,” dashed off in a hurry for the “B-side” of an anticipated hit.
For those who don’t remember, back in the 1950s and 1960s, in the vinyl period of the rock ‘n roll epoch, studios released 45 RPM records with two sides. The A-side was the song the studio wanted the disc jockeys to play. The B-side was to be ignored.
In 1969, DeCarlo (who also recorded under the name of Garrett Scott), Dale Frashuer and Paul Leka were recording a song called “Sweet Laura Lee” for Mercury records and their band, called Steam, and needed a B-side in a hurry.
They dredged up a number they had written in 1961 called “Kiss Him Goodbye,” DeCarlo said in an interview for Classicbands.com.
They started recording “Kiss Him Goodbye” one night at Mercury studios in New York City and it just wasn’t long enough for a B-side. “You had to make the B-sides long, and that way, the DJ is never going to play it,” Leka told the Arizona Repubic in a 2005 interview.
In effect, they padded the song.
“I said we should put a chorus to it,” Leka later recalled in “The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits,” as quoted in the Los Angeles Times.
“Na na” and “hey hey” were placeholder lyrics, used sometimes temporarily for lack of anything better.
“I started writing while I was sitting at the piano,” recalled Leka, “going ‘na na na na, na na na na …’ Everything was ‘na na’ when you didn’t have a lyric. DeCarlo threw in the “hey hey hey.”
And there it was.
“When the record company heard it,” DeCarlo said, they liked it. “They wanted to split the record. They wanted to put ‘Na Na’ out on it’s own and ‘Sweet Laura Lee’ out on its own.”
And they did. It shot up the charts and became No. 1 on Dec. 6, 1969, said DeCarlo.
At that point, it was just another song about love won and love lost.
Na na na na
Na na na na
Hey hey hey
He’ll never love you
The way that I love you
‘Cause if he did, oh no, he wouldn’t
Make you cry
“It was and still is about the love factor,” DeCarlo said. “Anyone who’s been in a love triangle can identify with this. Trying to make the girl realize that he’s not the guy for her.”
But in 1977, as legend has it, the organist for the Chicago White Sox, Nancy Faust, started playing it when opposing pitchers were yanked from the game. The crowds began to chant along with the music — and a great taunt was born.
Now, “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” is the anthem of taunt, sung in many languages and many sports, among them politics.
Its most memorable airing came in the film, “Remember the Titans,” in which it was sung slowly at the funeral of a football player killed in a car accident.
DeCarlo’s relationship with “Na Na Hey Hey” was frustrating and ultimately bittersweet.
As Songfacts described it: “When this song became a hit, an entire album was commissioned and a group created for it” also with the name “Steam.” But DeCarlo wasn’t invited to tour with it, even though he had recorded it. Indeed, he “was asked not to reveal that it was him on the record, since there was a different singer performing it at live appearances.”
DeCarlo said he was promised by producer Leka that if he went along, Leka would find a hit for him as a solo artist, which never happened.
“I really fell into a state of depression,” he told Songfacts.
… When we asked DeCarlo about how he felt when he heard the song, he replied: ‘It was a double-edged sword for me when I would hear it. I was and still am very proud and it’s a great feeling to know that so many people still like it. But back then I wanted to open my car window or yell to people on the train that it was me they were hearing.”
“I did another single called ‘I’m Gonna Give You All My Love,'” DeCarlo said in the Classicbands interview, “which was almost identical. If you listen to it, you’ll know it was the three people that did ‘Na na.’ But what happened was there was a big change in the music at that point. It went into the Folk music, the Head music. The people weren’t dancing anymore. They would sit in an audience like a painting. Nobody moved.”
DeCarlo’s close friend, Pat Horgan, announced DeCarlo’s death on Facebook. He died in hospice care in Connecticut, with his wife at his side, TMZ reported.