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Jay Black (1938–2021), lead singer for Jay and the Americans

by Linnea Crowther

Jay Black was the lead singer for Jay and the Americans, who had 1960s hits including “Come a Little Bit Closer” and “Cara Mia.”

Musical career

Born David Blatt, Black began his singing career with the doo-wop groups the Empires and the Two Chaps in the 1950s. He joined the Americans in 1963, when their first lead singer, Jay Traynor, left the band. It was then that Black took the nickname Jay, for continuity with the band’s name. They scored Top Five hits in 1964 with “Come a Little Bit Closer” and in 1965 with “Cara Mia.” Other popular singles included “Let’s Lock the Door (And Throw Away the Key),” “Some Enchanted Evening,” and “The Magic Moment.” Jay and the Americans opened for the Beatles at their first U.S. concert, at the Washington Coliseum in February 1964. The band broke up in 1973, though Black continued to perform as Jay and the Americans with a different group of backing musicians for decades. In 2006, the name was auctioned off after Black filed for bankruptcy, and another former band member purchased it and began touring with a new version of Jay and the Americans.

Black on how he changed his name

“I was on the Mike Douglas show. I used to do the show regularly. I never mentioned my last name on the air. One day, Mike asked me what my last name was and I mumbled Blatt, but he heard Black. He said, ‘Black?’ I said yes, a little lie. But everyone loved the name.” —from a 2014 interview for the Schmooze

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Tributes to Jay Black

Full obituary: The New York Times

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