Its ethnic humor has all the subtlety of cement shoes. It'sa no matter, though, since Joe Dolce's Shaddap You Face has already become a No. 1 single in England, several European countries and Australia, his adopted home. In the U.S. this summer, sales have reached 700,000. The single about an Italian mama's advice to her American-born son quickly yanked Dolce, 33, out of $70-a-night pub gigs into $2,000 concerts. And despite the paesano put-on, Italian-American groups have yet to raise their voices in anything but song.
"I'm basically saying Italians should be proud of their heritage," insists Joe, eldest of three children born to Italian-American parents in Painesville, Ohio. "I wasn't imitating my family. I was just combining as many of their phrases into one song as I could." His hairdresser brother, Frank Jr., praised the song, Joe points out, though he "suggested I'd better not play it for Grandmother."
After two years studying architecture at Ohio University, Dolce quit school to play full-time in a rock group and ended up in California as a C&W singer. After forming a mime, music and dance group in the Bay Area, he married hoofer Zandie Acton in 1976. The troupe faltered, and two years later Dolce moved to Melbourne, where he started a second mixed-cabaret act. It's as Giuseppe, a character he created for this act, that Dolce sings Shaddap.
Last year his marriage to Acton fizzled, and he and Zandie now share custody of son Ever, 5, and daughter Brea, 2. Dolce has moved into a rented Melbourne home with Lyn Van Hecke, 36, an Australian singer, writer and mother of four.
As for the future, Joe philosophizes, "You have to remain true to your intuition and create from your heart, rather than for the dollar." But it'sa hard to say whatta you think when he tells you about what he hopes will be his next hit single. It's titled Ain't No UFO Gonna Catch My Diesel—done in a Texas twang.
What'sa matter you, hey/Gotta no respect/Whatta you think you do/Why you looka so sad/It'sa not so bad/It'sa nice-a place/Ah, shaddap you face.