Paul Leka, a songwriter and producer best known for penning the iconic chorus to 1969’s “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,” died on Oct. 12 in Sharon, Conn. He was 68.
A Connecticut native born to Albanian immigrants, Leka began writing songs in his youth, and briefly recorded as a member of the Chateaus. Leka scored his first hit in 1967 when his composition “Green Tambourine” was a No. 1 hit for the Lemon Pipers.
Leka wrote “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” with Gary DeCarlo as something of a goof. Intending the song for a b-side, the two buffered an existing two and a half-minute song with the mostly wordless chorus, hoping the song’s four-minute-plus length would keep it off the airwaves. Released under fictitious band name Steam, the song instead hit No. 1 in 1969, then gained a much longer second life starting in the late ’70s when Chicago White Sox stadium organist Nancy Faust began playing the melody at games.
Leka also produced four albums for Harry Chapin, including 1974’s No. 1 hit “Cat’s in the Cradle,” in addition to production work with Gloria Gaynor, REO Speedwagon and Kris Kristofferson. He worked at CBS Records, Mercury and Elektra throughout his career.
Leka is survived by his wife, a son, two stepchildren, and a sister.