NEW YORK — Jay Black, the lead singer for Jay and the Americans who hit the pop charts during the 1960s with “Only in America,” “Cara Mia” and “This Magic Moment,” died Friday in New York City. He was 82.
Black died Friday in Queens from pneumonia that led to cardiac arrest, his son, Jason Blatt, told The New York Times. Black also had dementia, according to his family.
Born in Brooklyn on Nov. 2, 1938, David Blatt changed his name when he joined Jay and the Americans, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He replaced Jay Traynor in the band, the website reported.
The band’s first major hit with Black singing lead was “Only in America,” which peaked at No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1963. That was followed in 1964 by “Come a Little Bit Closer,” which soared to No. 3, and “Let’s Lock the Door (and Throw Away the Key),” which hit No. 11.
Jay and the Americans opened for The Beatles during the British group’s first U.S. concert tour stop in February 1964 in Washington, Rolling Stone reported.
The band was a fixture on 1960s pop shows such as “Hullabaloo” and “Where the Action Is,” and appeared on variety and talk shows including “The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson” and “The Merv Griffin Show,” the website reported.
Black’s signature song was the romantic ballad, “Cara Mia,” which peaked at No. 4 in 1965, the Times reported. The song showcased Black’s impressive vocal range, as he held certain notes for extended beats.
“This Magic Moment,” in 1968, was the band’s last major hit. The group broke up in 1973, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Black continued performing and also acted in the TV movie “Contract on Cherry Street,” which starred Frank Sinatra and Joe De Santis, the website reported.
In addition to his memorable voice, Black had a fine sense of humor. He also was a heavy gambler, according to the Times.
That addiction began when he was attending high school in Brooklyn and grew when he became successful. He also was a close friend of mobster John Gotti since they were young men, the newspaper reported.
“I went to his trial,” Black told the Times in 1994. “I took some heat about it. I got death threats But I love the family. I sang at this daughter’s wedding. I sang at his son’s wedding.”
Black was in bankruptcy court in 2005 after owing back taxes dating to 1993 because of his gambling, the newspaper reported.
Although he won a battle to continue to perform under his name in 2006, Black was unable to prevent the court from auctioning off the band’s name to Sandy Yaguda (known professionally as Sandy Deanne), the Times reported. Yaguda was one of the band’s founding members.
Black is survived by four children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
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