One the most popular Italian singers made a once-in-a-lifetime appearance at Casa Italia in Stone Park, courtesy of Ron Onesti and Onesti Entertainment.
Over the course of a stellar half-century career, Peppino di Capri has released nearly 250 recordings and appeared at the Festival of Sanremo more than any other singer. (See profile below.)
In October, he embarked on a 50th anniversary tour that included a stop on Oct. 18 at the Festival Center on the Casa Campus. The show was originally scheduled for the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, but Onesti wanted to bring di Capri closer to his fans.
“Casa Italia is located at the very heart of the Chicago-area Italian American community,” he notes. “There’s plenty of parking and seating, and the Festival Center can be enclosed if the weather turns chilly.”
The following profile was written by local radio personality Pat Capriati in advance of the concert:
The Dreamer: Peppino di Capri
by Pat Capriati
The squinted eyes, the shrugged shoulders, a grimace on his mouth and an unmistakable nasal voice that sings of memories, sins and amore. The spiritual father of a musical renewal, he dressed the time-honored Neapolitan song in a miniskirt, and his lyrics made the purists shudder. Giuseppe Faiella, known to legions of adoring fans as Peppino di Capri, was born on the island of his adopted name on July 27, 1939.
Peppino came from a family of musicians. His grandfather performed in Capri’s brass ensemble and his father was a record shop owner who played the saxophone, clarinet, cello and bass guitar in a band in the evenings and on weekends.
During a stellar career of 50-plus years of unforgettable songs, di Capri cut more than 250 records. And with his 15 appearances, he holds the record for the most performances at the Sanremo Festival, winning it all in 1973 with “Un grande amore e niente piu’” (A Great Love and Nothing More) and in 1976 with “Non lo faccio più’” (I Won’t do it Anymore).
Peppino was only 4 years old when his uncle took him to sing and play piano for the U.S. troops who had established their headquarter on Capri. The Americans invaded the island with their “unusual and charming flowered shirts, chocolate and rock ’n’ roll music,” di Capri said in his 2004 biography, “The Dreamer.” “My uncle made me play for General Clark the American songs that I had learned on the radio. On top of the piano there was a silver-plated dish, and by the end of the night it was full of American dollars. When I came home that night, I emptied my pockets and collapsed.”
Peppino began to sing professionally at the age 15 when he was called by a club to replace a singer who had cancelled due to to his grandmother’s illness. The unlucky performer never regained the gig. In the fall of 1958, at the age of 18, di Capri recorded his first records — “Malattia” and “Nun e’ peccato” — and success soon followed.
In the ’60s, di Capri reached the height of fame by taking melancholy old Neapolitan songs that spoke of love and broken hearts, rearranging them, and singing them with passion in his inimitable style.
That was the beginning of a long and fruitful career. In the next five years, he recorded hits like “Voce ‘e Notte,” “Nessuno al mondo,” “Luna Caprese,” “Let’s Twist Again,” “San Tropez Twist” and “Roberta” that kept him at the top of the Italian pop charts.
There were countless memorable moments along the way. In 1965, he was the opening act for the only appearance in Italy by the Beatles. “I was watching their giant amplifiers and I thought they were giant armoires,” Peppino recalls. “I was traveling with them on the plane and sat in the front of the plane, in the middle were their bodyguards, and the Beatles in the back of the plane. I was never allowed to sit or talk with them.”
Unfortunately, I’ve just exhausted the word limit given me by my editor, but I have so much more to share that it could fill a book. If you’d like to learn more about Peppino di Capri and listen to his music, I invite you to tune in to my weekly radio show, Domenica Insieme, which airs on Sunday mornings from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on the WCKG (1530AM). You can also watch the live video stream on www.wckg.com, or on my Facebook page (patrick capriati).
Well, I hope I’ve piqued your curiosity, and that you will join us on Oct. 18 when Ron Onesti presents Peppino di Capri in Concert at Casa Italia.