Reports are coming in that Rob Vitale, vocalist of NYHC bands Black Train Jack and Nine Lives, has passed away, including from fellow NYHC icon Danny Diablo, who wrote. “I am fucking so sad right now. Just found out my boy Rob Vitale from Black Train Jack has passed away today from COVID!!! He had a voice of an angel & a heart of gold!!! You will be missed Bobeats!!!” Sick Of It All, who Black Train Jack shared multiple bills with back in the ’90s, wrote, “Our hearts are heavy tonight. We lost our friend to Covid. Thinking of all the shows, the tours all the good times and laughs we shared.”
Rob founded Black Train Jack in the early ’90s with Token Entry’s Ernie Parada (later of Greyarea), and they released a couple demos before putting out their debut album No Reward in 1993 on Roadrunner, followed by You’re Not Alone the following year. After they broke up, Rob formed Nine Lives, who released three albums and an EP in the late ’90s and early 2000s. He also appeared on albums by Bloodhound Gang, Roger Miret & the Disasters, and Stretch Arm Strong. Black Train Jack reunited over the years, including at Black N Blue Bowl and This Is Hardcore in 2013.
In a 2020 interview with Ox Fanzine, Rob looked back on Black Train Jack’s early days, saying (translated from German via Google Translate):
I’m glad that after all these years our music still has a place with you and many others. We did our best to get noticed and to go musically unusual paths. NYHC roots combined with a large dose of punk rock, blues and even a touch of classic rock. These were our individual influences. Back then we were the only New York band that stood for a mix of hardcore and melody. We had good song structures and mastered our instruments. Have we smuggled our way into the hardcore scene? No! Were we another facet to explore? Yes! Who really wants to experience four bands on one show that all look the same, sound the same and have the same content? People need variety.
Watch some videos of Black Train Jack and read more tributes below.
Rest in peace, Rob.
I AM FUCKING SO SAD RIGHT NOW. JUST FOUND OUT MY BOY ROB VITALE FROM BLACK TRAIN JACK HAS PASSED AWAY TODAY FROM COVID!!! HE HAD A VOICE OF AN ANGEL & A HEART OF GOLD!!! YOU WILL BE MISSED BOBEATS!!!
— DANNY DIABLO (@DannyDiablo) March 29, 2021
One of my favorite vocalists in underground music has left the building and will never be forgotten.
Rest In Peace Rob Vitale from Black Train Jack and 9 Lives…..
I’ll never forget the kindness, respect, & friendship you offered me. Eternal respect. RIP pic.twitter.com/nEDIbFodCg
— Kevin Gill (@OGkevingill) March 28, 2021
Sad to hear that Rob Vitale has died. Black Train Jack were sweet and earnest anomalies amongst NYHC and Vitale’s voice was as distinct as any of the best in the scene. https://t.co/tZV2t4oqGn
— Zachary Lipez (@ZacharyLipez) March 28, 2021
RIP Rob Vitale of Black Train Jack who passed away from Covid-19 this weekend. A true OG of NYHC. Thoughts & Condolences go out to all his friends and family.
— idobi Howl (@idobiHowl) March 29, 2021