Gary DeCarlo, who sang lead on the hit song “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,” which topped the charts in 1969 and has lived on ever since as an indelible sports stadium taunt, died Wednesday in a hospice facility in Branford, Conn. He was 75.
His wife, Annette, said the cause was metastatic cancer.
Mr. DeCarlo wrote and recorded “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” with two friends and fellow musicians, Dale Frashuer and Paul Leka. The song was originally intended as the B-side of one of several songs Mr. DeCarlo had recorded with Leka.
It began as two verses the friends had written years before, with the opening lines: “He’ll never love you / The way that I love you / ‘Cause if he did, no no, he wouldn’t / Make you cry.”
The song became an earworm thanks to the addition of a repeating playground chant, “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye.”
Released by Fontana Records under the band name Steam, the song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. But Mr. DeCarlo did not tour in support of the single, and the record company, with Leka’s help, built a traveling version of Steam using different studio musicians.
Accounts differ as to why. Leka maintained that Mr. DeCarlo was embarrassed by the song and had refused to perform it. Mr. DeCarlo said the record company and Leka had pushed him out.
Steam’s popularity soon waned, but the song’s second life had just begun. Mr. DeCarlo told the Washington City Paper in 2007 that Louisiana State University contacted him in 1970 about using the song at sporting events. Beginning in 1977, it was a staple of Chicago White Sox organist Nancy Faust’s repertoire. Soon it was being roared at ballparks around the country.
“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” has since been covered by groups like Bananarama and the Supremes — after Diana Ross had left — and was sung mournfully in Jerry Bruckheimer’s 2000 football film “Remember the Titans.”
The song has also boomed through the halls of Congress, most recently in May, when Democratic representatives jeered their Republican colleagues after they passed an unpopular bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
Gary Richard DeCarlo was born on June 5, 1942, in Bridgeport, Connecticut. His father, Richard, was a musician who divorced Gary’s mother, the former Jean Albanese, when Gary was 2 years old. She worked as a seamstress, a trade that he learned; he supported himself by making slipcovers when his music career stalled.
As a young man Mr. DeCarlo recorded doo-wop songs with Frashuer and Leka, first as the Glenwoods, then as the Citations and the Chateaus. He was recording singles with Leka under the name Garrett Scott when they recorded “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.”
He married Annette Kundert, with whom he lived in Shelton, Connecticut, 26 years ago. In addition to her, he leaves their daughters, Leah and Jenna DeCarlo, and a stepsister, Delilah Lepone.
Mr. DeCarlo performed his hit song more frequently in recent years, including as part of “My Music: ‘60s Pop, Rock and Soul,” a 2011 PBS concert special devoted to 1960s music. Fittingly, he was the closing act.