Jay Kay (born Jason Luís Cheetham; 30 December 1969) is an English singer-songwriter. He rose to international fame as a founding member and lead vocalist of the jazz-funk band Jamiroquai.
Jay Kay was born in Stretford, Lancashire, on 30 December 1969. His mother, Karen Kay, is a former cabaret singer and television personality. His biological father is Luís Saraiva, a Portuguese former guitarist, whom he did not meet until 2001. Kay's identical twin, David, died a few weeks after they were born. Kay said in a 2010 interview with The Daily Telegraph that his mother brought him up largely alone, which gave him "an itinerant childhood; half of it living in rural Suffolk and rural Devon". A 1997 article in the Lancashire Evening Telegraph states that Kay "moved with his mother and step-father Mervyn Kay to Manchester as a youngster". He attended Oakham School in Rutland. At the age of 15, Kay was homeless and turned to small crimes to survive. He soon returned to his home after a false arrest and a near-death experience. From there, he pursued a career in music and worked as a breakdancer. Prior to forming his own band, it was widely reported that he failed an audition to become a singer for The Brand New Heavies. The group, however, denied these claims.
Kay formed Jamiroquai in 1992. Band members included Toby Smith (keyboards), Nick Van Gelder (drums, 1992–1993), Derrick McKenzie (drums 1994–present) and Wallis Buchanan (didgeridoo). After the success of Jamiroquai's first single, "When You Gonna Learn", Kay signed a US$1 million record deal with Sony Soho2. The band's first album was Emergency on Planet Earth. The relationship with Sony ended in 2007. The band has sold more than 26 million albums worldwide. Kay is occasionally referred to as 'Jamiroquai' due to the misconception that the band is actually a solo artist.
Kay is well known for his array of elaborate hats and headgear. Professional appearances for concerts, interviews and the like have prompted descriptions of Kay as "the mad hatter" for his love of headgear. In 2005, it was announced that Kay, often referred to as "the cat in the hat", was launching a range of distinctive clothing, including his trademark hats, on his new "Quai" label. The Indian Country Media Network has criticised him for wearing sacred regalia of the First Nations, including the feathered war bonnet (as seen in the music video and CD single artwork for "Corner of the Earth" as well as on the album artwork for 2010's Rock Dust Light Star).
Kay appeared in an episode of the BBC series The Naked Chef alongside chef Jamie Oliver. He has also performed on the series Strictly Come Dancing singing "Canned Heat". He also appeared four times in the BBC car show Top Gear. The first appearance was in series 1, episode 2, where he set a lap time of 1:48.1 for the show's "Star in a reasonably priced car", becoming (and remaining) the person with the fastest lap time for the rest of the first series and most of the next series. His second appearance was in series 3, episode 4, where Kay drove his Lamborghini Miura with Richard Hammond as a passenger. The third appearance was in series 11, episode 6, where he beat the top time held by Simon Cowell by one-tenth of a second. He succeeded with a lap time of 1:45.8. Kay won Top Gear's "John Sergeant Award" for the best dance after learning that his time on the Top Gear test track was the fastest lap time in 2008.
From 1998 to 2001, Kay dated Denise van Outen. They were engaged and reported to be on the verge of marriage, but split up in 2001.
In a 2010 interview, Kay stated that he at one point had a "substantial" cocaine habit. He has been free of drugs since 2003.
He is a former resident of Ealing, where he lived on Grange Road (W5) and played some of his first gigs in The Haven, a pub on Spring Bridge Road (now converted to offices) and Broadway Boulevard (now Club Karma).
His personal wealth is reported to be around £40 million. He appeared on the Sunday Times Rich List 2004 at joint-950th. The Sunday Times Rich List 2008 has him tied for #1,794, also with £40 million. He currently resides at Horsenden, a small hamlet in Buckinghamshire where he has his own private studio.
James Royal, often described as Kay's stepfather, is his mother's former manager with whom she had a relationship during Kay's childhood years. Royal had stated in his 2002 interview in News of the World that he never married Karen Kay but still regards Kay as his stepson.
Kay is in a relationship with a woman he only names as Maria. The couple have two daughters named Tallulah and Carla. The track "Carla" from the Automaton album is a tribute to his first daughter. On 9 October 2017, Jay received the Broadcast Music, Inc President's Award at the BMI London Awards, and confirmed, during his speech, that he and Maria are married.
When asked in a 1996 interview about having conventional religious beliefs, he responded: "I follow the religion of the trees and the greenery. I follow the religion of the moon. I believe in what people leave behind in the sense of trails and spirits, the energy which they project. I believe in vibrations, which is what the whole world runs on."
In 2017, Kay seriously injured his spine. Requiring surgery, it led to Jamiroquai cancelling two shows in Tokyo for their Automaton Tour, which were rescheduled later that year.
In April 2001, Kay was charged with assaulting a photographer and damaging his camera outside the Attica nightclub in London's West End. Kay pleaded not guilty, and the charges were later dropped due to lack of evidence.
In May 2002, Kay was questioned by police after allegedly being headbutted by a photographer he had allegedly earlier punched and accused of damaging his new £170,000 Bentley car, at a premiere party for Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, in the St Martin's Lane Hotel. His nose bled, and he received a black eye, but no charges were brought.
Kay has a strong interest in exotic cars, and by 2013 he had owned hundreds of cars during his life, mainly sports cars. His love of cars was expressed with the release of the album Travelling Without Moving. The album's cover featured an adaptation of the "Buffalo Man" logo and the Ferrari crest. He initially received negative press coverage because Jamiroquai's earlier lyrics contained themes of environmental concern. He responded in a 2011 interview, "[People] keep talking to me about cars and environment, and I reckon I do about 3,000 miles a year." With an additional statement that he "[doesn't] really drive that much at all any more, because I'm either on tour or doing stuff."
In 2011, he visited Maranello for an exclusive viewing of the then-new Ferrari 458 Spider. Three of his cars appeared in the video for the song "Cosmic Girl"; one of the cars was totalled, and the replacement also involved in an incident that left the windscreen destroyed; Kay was not involved in either incident. In total, he owns over 100 vehicles, including what he calls "staff cars", and he owned a "one-off" 1965 Ferrari 330 GT Vignale Shooting Brake.
A combination of cars and music is also evident in the song "Black Devil Car" from the album Dynamite, which is a tribute to his black Ferrari Enzo. The Enzo suffered damage to the windows after an altercation with hotel chef Aaron Billington at the Brudenell Hotel in Aldeburgh, Suffolk.
Kay competed in the Celebrity Challenge race at the 2012 Silverstone Classic, finishing third behind AC/DC vocalist Brian Johnson and actor Kelvin Fletcher.
At the 2014, Goodwood Festival of Speed, Kay showcased his signal green LaFerrari, which is currently the only one of its colour in the world.
- List of number-one dance hits (United States)
- List of artists who reached number one on the US Dance chart
- Jay Kay discography at Discogs