There are songwriters and then there are songwriters whose music leaves an indelible mark on an industry. Paul Leka was a kid from Bridgeport who wrote songs as well as produced records for REO Speedwagon and Harry Chapin when he had his music studio in the Park City. I interviewed Leka for my book Only In Bridgeport when it was first published in 1986. I asked him about writing one of the greatest chant songs in the history of Rock & Roll, Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye. The song needed something, he recalled, and it was as simple as throwing in a chant. It was a history maker. In recent years he made his home in the northwest hills of Sharon Connecticut. Paul Leka died a few days ago at age 68. Leka kept in touch through the years with some of his Bridgeport friends including OIB friend Carol Cocco who shared the news of his death. More from the book Only In Bridgeport.
In 1969, Bridgeport-born songwriter Paul Leka was so uninspired by the opening words to a song scheduled to be the B-side on a 45 record that he tossed in the chant “Na na na na, hey hey, goodbye.” Pretty soon, everybody around the world was singing it and it made Leka a lot of money and an established songwriter. Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye, sung by a trio of Bridgeport boys called Steam, has since sold millions of records.
Leka came a long way from his Tin Pan Alley song-peddling days in New York City. At 24 years old in 1964, he wrote songs for a publishing company owned by Bobby Darin before he discovered REO Speedwagon as a staff producer at CBS records. The Bassick High School graduate, who also wrote the hit songs Green Tambourine and Rice is Nice (both sung by The Lemon Pipers) produced and arranged for many pop artists at his Connecticut Recording Studio on Main Street. Musicians such as Stevie Wonder, Rita Coolidge, Kris Kristofferson and Harry Chapin recorded music at Connecticut Recording.