Joe Dolce

Joe Dolce
Man sitting on back door steps, wearing jeans, boots, black T-shirt and sun glasses. Rests left elbow on left knee with left forefinger pointing to his right. Right fist hidden inside left hand and he is facing forward.
Joe Dolce, 2003
Background information
Born (1947-10-13) October 13, 1947 (age 74)
Origin Painesville, Ohio, U.S.
Genres Pop
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • musician
  • poet
  • essayist
Years active 1968–present
Associated acts Joe Dolce Music Theatre

Joseph Dolce (born October 13, 1947)[1] (/ˈdl/, originally /ˈdlts/) is an American-Australian singer/songwriter, poet and essayist who achieved international recognition with his multi-million-selling song, "Shaddap You Face", released under the name of his one-man show, Joe Dolce Music Theatre, worldwide, in 1980–1981.[2][3][4]

The single reached number one in 15 countries,[5] it has sold more than 450,000 copies in Australia, and for many years was the most successful Australian-produced single, selling an estimated six million copies worldwide.[6] It reached No. 1 on the Australian Kent Music Report Singles Chart for eight weeks from November 1980.[4]


Dolce was born in 1947, the eldest of three children, to Italian-American parents, in Painesville, Ohio, graduating from Thomas W. Harvey High School in 1965. During his senior year, he played the lead role of Mascarille in Molière's "Les Précieuses Ridicules" for a production staged by the French Club of Lake Erie College, which was his first time on stage, acting and singing an impromptu song he created from the script. The play was well received and his performance was noted by director Jake Rufli, who later invited him to be part of his production of Jean Anouilh's "Eurydice".

His co-star in "Les Précieuses Ridicules" was a sophomore, on a creative writing scholarship, at Lake Erie College, Carol Dunlop, who introduced him to folk music, poetry and the writings of William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway. Dunlop later married the Argentine novelist Julio Cortázar. Dolce attended Ohio University, majoring in Architecture, from 1965 to 1967, before deciding to become a professional musician.

Musical and theatrical career

While attending college at Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio, he formed various bands including Headstone Circus,[2] with Jonathan Edwards who subsequently went on as a solo artist to have a charting hit song in the US ("Sunshine"). Edwards subsequently recorded five Dolce songs including, "Athens County", "Rollin' Along", "King of Hearts", "The Ballad of Upsy Daisy" and "My Home Ain't in the Hall of Fame", the latter song becoming an alt country classic, also recorded by Robert Earl Keen, Rosalie Sorrels, JD Crowe & the New South, and many others.

Move to Australia

Dolce relocated to Melbourne, Australia in 1978 and his first single there was "Boat People"—a protest song on the poor treatment of Vietnamese refugees—which was translated into Vietnamese and donated to the fledgling Vietnamese community starting to form in Melbourne. His one-man show, Joe Dolce Music Theatre, performed in cabarets and pubs with various line-ups, including his longtime partner, Lin Van Hek.

"Shaddap You Face"

In July 1980, he recorded the self-penned "Shaddap You Face",[1] for the Full Moon Records label, at Mike Brady's new studios in West Melbourne.[2][6] When in Ohio, Dolce would sometimes visit his Italian grandparents and extended family—they used the phrases "What's the matter, you?" and "Eh, shaddap", which Dolce adapted and used in the song.[6] He wrote the song about Italians living in Australia and first performed it at Marijuana House, Brunswick Street, Fitzroy in 1979.[6] Dolce paid A$500 for the recording and spent $1000 on the music video clip, which was created by Melbourne filmmaker, Chris Lofven.[citation needed]

It became a multi-million-selling hit, peaking at No. 1 on the Australian Kent Music Report Singles Chart for eight weeks from November 1980,[4] in the UK from February 1981 for three weeks,[2][7] and also No. 1 in Germany, France, Fiji, Puerto Rico, the Canadian province of Quebec, Austria,[8] New Zealand[9] and Switzerland.[10][11] Dolce received the Advance Australia Award in 1981.[12] The song has had hundreds of cover versions over the decades including releases by artists as diverse as Lou Monte, Sheila (France), Andrew Sachs (Manuel, of Fawlty Towers), actor Samuel L. Jackson and hip-hop legend KRS-One. In 2018, the first Russian language version was released by two of Moscow's most popular singers, Kristina Orbakaite and Philipp Kirkorov. The song has been translated into fifteen languages, including an aboriginal dialect.

Subsequent artistic career

Follow up single, "If You Wanna Be Happy" charted in Australia (No. 7) and New Zealand (top 40).[4][8][9] Dolce's subsequent singles included "Pizza Pizza", "Christmas in Australia" and "You Toucha My Car I Breaka You Face" and he released two albums during this period, Shaddap You Face and The Christmas Album. With Lin Van Hek, he formed various performance groups including Skin the Wig, La Somnambule (1984) and the ongoing Difficult Women (1993).[2][3] Van Hek and Dolce co-wrote "Intimacy",[13] for the 1984 film, The Terminator's soundtrack,[14] now part of the US Library of Congress collection. He was a featured lead actor in the Australian film Blowing Hot and Cold (1988). He has continued to perform solo and with Van Hek as part of their music-literary cabaret Difficult Women. In the past decade, he has also received extensive recognition as a poet and essayist.

Personal life

In 1976, he married Zandie Acton, the sister of fashion icon Prue Acton, in Berkeley, California. They had two children, Ever and Brea, and moved to Australia in 1979, separated and divorced. He met singer-writer-painter Lin Van Hek in 1980, in Tiamos Coffee Shop, in Carlton, Victoria. They have remained together for forty-one years and have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren.


Joe Dolce has achieved further recognition as a poet and essayist.

He was the winner of the 2017 University of Canberra Health Poetry Prize. He won the 25th Launceston Poetry Cup in Tasmania in 2010. He has set poems to music by Sappho, Sylvia Plath, Les Murray, Ali Cobby Eckermann, Andrew Lansdown and C.P. Cavafy. He wrote "Hill of Death" from a poem of Louisa Lawson's that won Best Folk Gospel Song at the Australian Gospel Awards. "Cocaine Lil", an eighteenth-century public domain lyric, formed the basis for an up-tempo blues song – both of these poems-set-to-music appeared on his 2007 album The Wind Cries Mary. "Cocaine Lil" was also included as a featured track in Australian Guitar Player Magazine.[citation needed]

He has had over 150 poems, including thirty-five new unpublished song-lyrics, selected by Queen's Medal for Poetry recipient Les Murray for publication in Quadrant, as stand-alone poetry, including two poems in Best of Quadrant Poetry 2001–2010.

Between 2015 and 2017, he was on staff at the Australian Institute of Music, Melbourne, teaching Ensemble, Composition, Lyric and Poetry Setting & personal tutoring.

He has had four essays published in Meanjin – "The Benefit of Smoking" (May 2013), "My Craft or Sullen Art: Poetry, Songwriting" (May 2014), "Todesengel and the Seven Dwarfs" (May 2015) and "Dirty Laundry: The Art of Confessional Writing" (December 2017).

The Monthly published his essay on art censorship, "Shaddap You Facebook", in April 2013.

Quadrant has also published twenty-five of his essays: "Biblical Imagery in the Songwriting of the Creative Infidels: Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave and Paul Kelly" (Jan–Feb 2012), "Hey Mr Cowbell Man: Sir Christopher Ricks' Dylan's Visions of Sin" (March 2012), "Anti the Anti" (June 2012), "Who Is This White Fella Fella?" (October 2012), "In the Op Shop With Percy Grainger" (November 2012), "Father Scapegoat" (January–February 2013), "Pen Pencil or Keyboard" (March 2013), "Elysium in Paraguay" (July–August 2013), "Graham Greene's Lolita" (April 2014), "Speechless" (July–August 2014), "William S. Burroughs: Scientologist" (Apr. 2015), "Salve for a Broken Childhood: The Phenomenon of Rod McKuen"(Sept. 2015),"The Popular Wobbly: The Subversiveness of Starvation Box Blues" (Oct. 2015),"Florence Foster Jenkins: Dire Diva of Din" (June 2016), "Polymaths and Monomaths" (July–August 2016), "The Willingness to Be Hated" (Sept 2016),"Ain't Gonna Work on Bob Dylan's Farm No More" (October 2016), "Grape-Pickin': Best Australian Poems 2016"(March 2017),"The Great American Songbook: The Classical Music of America" (April 2017), "How I Met Jake Rufli" (Dec. 2017), "GSTQ – God Save the Queen" (March 2018) and "Maximilian Kolbe: Saint of Auschwitz" (April 2018). From June 2018, he has written Quadrant's monthly critical review of extended television series including "The Crown", "The Night Manager", "Great British Railway Journeys","Victoria" and "The Last Kingdom".

He has been shortlisted for the 2017 Queensland Poetry Festival Philip Bacon Ekphrasis Poetry Prize (2 poems), the 2017 Ipswich Poetry Feast Photographic Ekphrasis Prize, the 2014 Newcastle Poetry Prize and long listed three times for the University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor's Poetry Prize in 2014, 2017 & 2018.

Dolce's poetry, essays, short stories, photographs and song-lyrics have been published in Meanjin, Overland, Island magazine, Southerly, Cordite, Eye to the Telescope, Verity La, Contrappasso, The Canberra Times, Soto, Stars Like Sand, Australian Love Poems, Flightpath, Going Down Swinging, Carmenta, Spinifex Press, Journey, Australian Poetry Magazine, Coolabah 23: Short Poems Issue, Shots from the Chamber, Best of Vine Leaves, Meniscus, Going Down Swinging, PEN International (in English & Arabic translation), Best of Little Raven, Not Shut Up (UK), Artview (UK), Voltage (USA), Tupelo Press (USA), Báo Giấy Vietnamese Poetry Journal (USA – in English and Vietnamese translation), Structure and Surprise (USA), "North of Oxford " (USA) and American Association for Australian Literary Studies (Antipodes) (USA).[citation needed]

He released his first self-published book of poems HATBOX in 2010[citation needed] and his most recent book, ON MURRAY'S RUN – 150 poems and songlyrics selected by Les Murray – in 2017, is published by Ginninderra Press.

He is included in Best Australian Poems 2015 and 2014, edited by Geoff Page, published by Black Inc.

In May 2015, the Aphids Theatre Company produced a successful contemporary Futurist deconstruction of his life story, called A Singular Phenomenon, which ran for three sold-out nights at The Malthouse Theatre, in Melbourne, and was nominated for a Green Room Award in 2016.[citation needed]

He was the City of Melbourne Poet Laureate, in Aug 2020, with a poem on the Covid-quarantine, Le Grand Masked Ball of Phantasmagoric Melbourne.

In 2021, he appeared on the Seven Network show Holey Moley as the first distraction on the hole 'Distractor Duel".[citation needed]

He is currently contributing as the extended series television review editor for Quadrant.



  • Shaddap You Face (Full Moon, 1981)
  • Christmas in Australia (Hammard, 1981). (AUS #92)[15]
  • Difficult Women with Lin Van Hek (1992)
  • Black Pepper With a Hint of Violets Difficult Women, with Lin Van Hek (1995)
  • Memoirs of a Mouth Organ (1997)
  • Steal Away Home (1999)
  • freelovedays (2000)
  • Flower with Lin Van Hek (2001)
  • The Wind Cries Mary (2007)


  • "Boat People" (1979)
  • "Shaddap You Face" (Full Moon, 1980) (AUS #1)[15]
  • "If You Want to Be Happy" (Full Moon, May 1981) (AUS #61)[15] AUT No. 7,[8] NZL No. 33[9]
  • "Reggae Matilda" (1981)
  • "Christmas in Australia" (November 1981)
  • "You Toucha My Car I Breaka You Face" (June 1982)
  • "Pizza Pizza" (Fable, 1984)
  • "Vaffanculo Polka" (February 1989)
  • "Dead Cat Bounce" (November 2011)



  • Dolce, Joe (2010). Hatbox. Carlton, Vic.: Dolceamore Music.
  • Dolce, Joe (2017). On Murray's run : poems & lyrics. Selected by Les Murray. Port Adelaide: Ginninderra Press.
List of poems
Title Year First published Reprinted/collected
Lemonricks 2012 Dolce, Joe (2012). "Lemonricks". Meanjin. 71 (1). Six lemonricks
Sandmen 2016 Dolce, Joe (January–February 2016). "Sandmen". Quadrant. 60 (1–2): 23.
Noh means Noh 2016 Dolce, Joe (January–February 2016). "Noh means Noh". Quadrant. 60 (1–2): 23.
The daughter that still loves me 2016 Dolce, Joe (January–February 2016). "The daughter that still loves me". Quadrant. 60 (1–2): 98.
An interesting little girl 2018 Dolce, Joe (January–February 2018). "An interesting little girl". Quadrant. 62 (1–2 [543]): 115.
Rubik's paradelle 2020 Dolce, Joe (January–February 2018). "Rubik's paradelle". Quadrant. 62 (1–2 [543]): 128.

Short fiction

Title Year First published Reprinted/collected Notes
No two snowflakes 2015 Quadrant
The clavier challenge : Bach vs Marchand 2016 Quadrant
E 2018 Dolce, Joe (January–February 2018). "E". Quadrant. 62 (1–2 [543]): 132–140.
  • Two-headed Lady (Quadrant 2016)

Essays and other contributions



  1. ^ a b ""Shaddap You Face" at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 9 January 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e McFarlane, Ian (1999). "Encyclopedia entry for 'Joe Dolce'". Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-072-1. Archived from the original on 19 April 2004. Retrieved 10 January 2010.
  3. ^ a b Spencer, Chris; Zbig Nowara, Paul McHenry with notes by Ed Nimmervoll (2002) [1987]. "DOLCE, Joe". The Who's Who of Australian Rock. Noble Park, Vic.: Five Mile Press. ISBN 1-86503-891-1. Retrieved 9 January 2010. Note: [on-line] version established at White Room Electronic Publishing Pty Ltd Archived 29 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine in 2007 and was expanded from the 2002 edition.
  4. ^ a b c d Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book Ltd. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. NOTE: Used for Australian Singles and Albums charting from 1974 until ARIA created their own charts in mid-1988. In 1992, Kent back calculated chart positions for 1970–1974.
  5. ^ Joe Dolce official site – biography
  6. ^ a b c d Jenkins, Jeff; Ian Meldrum (2007). "Chapter 22: Joe Dolce". Molly Meldrum presents 50 years of rock in Australia. Melbourne, Vic: Wilkinson Publishing. pp. 167–168. ISBN 978-1-921332-11-1.
  7. ^ Roberts, David (2005). Guinness World Records: British Hit Singles and Albums (18th edition). Guinness World Records Limited. p. 14. ISBN 1-904994-00-8.
  8. ^ a b c "Discographie Joe Dolce Music Theatre". Austrian Charts Portal. Retrieved 10 January 2010. Note: Some information is in German.
  9. ^ a b c "Discography Joe Dolce Music Theatre". New Zealand Charts Portal. Retrieved 10 January 2010.
  10. ^ "Discographie Joe Dolce Music Theatre". Swiss Charts Portal. Retrieved 10 January 2010. Note: Some information is in German.
  11. ^ "Joe Dolce Music Theatre – Shaddap You Face". Australian Charts Portal. Retrieved 10 January 2010.
  12. ^ "Joe Dolce". Countdown. Archived from the original on 3 March 2011. Retrieved 12 January 2010.
  13. ^ ""Intimacy" at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 10 January 2010.
  14. ^ ""Terminator Cues" at The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP)". ASCAP. Retrieved 10 January 2010.
  15. ^ a b c Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 92. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.

External links