Steam singer Gary DeCarlo, who co-wrote and sang lead on the band’s enduring 1969 hit “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,” died following a battle with lung cancer. He was 75.
A friend of DeCarlo’s confirmed the singer’s death to TMZ, adding that he died at a hospice in his native Connecticut.
DeCarlo and his former bandmates Paul Leka and Dale Frashuer – who played together in Bridgeport, Connecticut bands like the Chateaus and the Glenwoods – co-wrote “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.”
Leka eventually moved into production and, for Mercury Records, recorded a session with DeCarlo. Needing a B-side for their single “Sweet Laura Lee,” the two revived a Glenwoods track titled “Kiss Him Goodbye.”
At the time of the single’s release, Steam didn’t actually exist: The band seen on the single’s cover as well as promotional performances – where the singer lip-synched DeCarlo’s vocals – were hired to promote the track, even though none of them actually contributed on “Kiss Him Goodbye.”
Still, the single rose to Number One on the Billboard Hot 100 in the latter half of 1969, resulting in a self-titled album in 1970 before Steam dissolved due to DeCarlo’s dissatisfaction over the false nature of the band.
“Think back to Milli Vanilli when people found out that these guys weren’t singing. That was a big deal. People don’t like to be fooled,” DeCarlo told ClassicBands.com. “You’re paying money to go out and see these guys perform and they’re not the real deal. So obviously I walked away from it.”
Over the ensuing decades, the song became an anthem at stadiums and arenas, with the home crowd chanting the song’s chorus to taunt the away team when a victory is decidedly in hand. The chant has also accompanied pitching changes and ejections at sporting events.
The Supremes, Bananarama, the Nylons and Kristinia DeBarge were also among the artists who covered the track, with the latter three acts turning their renditions into charting hits. By DeCarlo’s count, the song in all its forms has sold over 6.5 million copies.
Most recently, a group of Democrats invoked the chant in May to taunt Republicans after the House of Representatives passed a health care bill opposed by Democrats.