American singer Jay Black dies at 82

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Jay Black, whose majestic voice on songs like “Cara, Mia” and “Only in America” ​​made Jay and the Americans a powerful force in pop music in the 1960s, died in Queens on Friday. He was 82 years old.

Her son Jason Blatt said the cause was pneumonia which led to cardiac arrest. He also suffered from dementia, his family said.

Jay and the Americans began to prosper before the Beatles arrived in the United States in 1964. With Mr. Black as lead singer, the group’s first major success was “Only in America” which peaked at No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1963. This was followed the following year by “Come a little closer” which went to n ° 3, and “Lock the door (and throw away the key)” which reached No. 11.

In 1965, their version of “An enchanted evening”, of the musical “South Pacific”, peaked at No. 13.

Mr. Black – whose original name was David Blatt – was the second “Jay” to face the Americans. He replaced Jay Traynor in 1963, a year after the band’s first hit, “She Cried,” reached No. 5 on the charts.

Mr. Black’s signature song was “Cara, Mia,” a romantic ballad that peaked at No. 4 in 1965. Mr. Black, who had an impressive vocal range, opened the song slowly, almost operatively, before that the melody does not become optimistic. Memorably, he held certain notes for long and prolonged times.

He said two singers warned him that he was putting his voice in danger by stretching it to its limits: Frankie Valli of the Four Seasons and Frank Sinatra.

“So, are you the ‘Cara, Mia’ type?” Mr. Black recalled Sinatra’s words in 1977 when they filmed “Contract on Cherry Street” (1977), a TV movie in which Mr. Black had a rare acting role. In an interview with The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa., In 2010, Mr. Black said Sinatra advised him, “You better lower your key or you’ll lose your voice.

This voice supported him solo long after Jay and the Americans parted ways in 1973. But in 2017, in one of his last performances, Mr. Black apologized to fans at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, for struggling to reach his former vocal heights.

“I don’t hit any notes,” he said, explaining that he hadn’t performed for over a year. “I can not sing.”

David Blatt was born November 2, 1938 in Astoria, Queens, and raised in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. His parents, Herman and Francis (Smith) Blatt, raised him in the Orthodox Jewish tradition. David first sang in public in the choir of Temple Beth-El.

But he said he was kicked out of New Utrecht High School and three yeshivas.

“I was a bad boy” he told The Forward in 2014. “I was a wise man. When I graduated from eighth grade, I was the comedian of the class. I have always been a troublemaker.

Mr. Black started his singing career with two doo-wop groups, the Two Chaps and the Empires. Marty Kupersmith, who plays the role of Marty Sanders, had been in both groups with him before becoming one of the Americans; when Mr. Traynor left, he invited Mr. Black to replace him. Mr. Black was selling shoes at Thom McAn at the time.

Although he agreed to change his name to Jay, Mr. Blatt did not become Jay Black until he appeared on Mike Douglas’ talk show. He said that when Mr. Douglas asked him his last name, he misunderstood “Blatt” as “Black”, and that from that point on he was Jay Black.

Mr. Black didn’t just have a breathtaking voice; he was as handsome and could be as funny as a comedian in a borscht belt. But he was a big player, an addiction that started in high school and grew as he became more prosperous. He was also a close friend of gangster John Gotti since they were young men.

“I went to his trial,” Mr. Black told The New York Times in 1994. “I took a bit of heat about it. I have received death threats. But I love the family. I sang at this girl’s wedding. I sang at his son’s wedding.

Mr. Black landed in bankruptcy court in 2005. He owed $ 500,000 in back taxes since 1993 due to his gambling addiction. Although he won a battle to continue performing under his name the following year, he was unable to prevent the court from auctioning off the name “Jay and the Americans” to one of the group’s founding members, Sandy Yaguda (known professionally as Sandy Deanne). .

“Bringing out a bunch of impostors bothers me,” Mr. Black told Newsday after the court allowed him to keep his name. “I don’t know who will sing these songs. Even if someone makes a great imitation of me, it’s still not me.

Mr. Yaguda formed a new version of Jay and the Americans in late 2006, bringing together with two other original members, Mr. Sanders and Howie Kane, and adding a third “Jay”: Jay Reincke, whose first name is Jean.

“We have shared some wonderful and very controversial moments,” the group said in a Facebook statement after Mr. Black’s death, “and just like an ex-wife, we are so proud of the beautiful children we have created. We will always remember The Voice.

In addition to his son Jason, Mr. Black is survived by two other sons, William and Beau; a daughter, Samantha; five grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; one sister, Gail Decker; and one brother, Norman Blatt. Her marriages with Marsha Garbowitz, Kathy Izzo and Andi Francis ended in divorce. He died in a hospital.

In February 1964, two days after the Beatles’ first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” Jay and the Americans and the Righteous Brothers opened for them at their first concert in the United States, at the Washington Coliseum. When fans chanted aloud “We want the Beatles!” As the Americans played, Mr. Black felt he had to react.

“Jay, being who he is,” Mr. Yaguda told the Vinyl Dialogues blog in 2020, “came out and said,” Hey, man, I’m glad you all came over to see us tonight. And they all cracked. It convinced them, so they fell silent and listened to us and, when we were done, applauded us. “


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