Born in Salo, Italy, about an hour south of Rome in 1953, Alfie Zappacosta’s family moved to Toronto when he was only 6 months old. He first picked up the guitar at age 9 and began playing in different groups while only a teen. Performing at Italian weddings opened the youngster up to diverse musical influences, which would become his trademark later on.
He toiled through the 70’s in a variety of pseudo-disco units, lastly on horns in the Janette Brant Lee, which featured three female singers and a whole lot of creative dissatisfaction for the budding musician. By late ’78 he decided to start his own group, more rock/pop oriented. With fellow JBL castaways Steve Jensen and drummer Paul Delaney, they filled out the roster with Jeff Waddington on bass and keyboardist Peter Curry – and Surrender was born.
They released an lp and an ep but by ’82 they still hadn’t lived up to management’s expectations, only cracking the Top 100 twice on three singles, first with “Finding Your Way,” then “It’s All Been Done Before.” Nonetheless, a third project was scheduled, but Capitol insisted on shipping the band off to LA to work with Ed Thacker, in hopes of producing something more palatable to the American tatstebud. After hearing the finished product, Capitol execs canned it.
Now living fulltime in LA, Zappacosta was discouraged at the whole idea of being part of a band and headed off in a solo direction. He was enticed back to Canada after talking with Loverboy ‘s manager, Lou Blair. Returning to Toronto, the scrapped third album was re-worked by Dee Long of Klaatu-fame. He convinced Capitol to back his solo career and his self-titled debut was released in 1984, instantly met by critical praise.
The first single, “We Should Be Lovers” a chart-topper in Canada, was indicative of the album – well-written with a tight cohesion. The album featured guest spots by several of his Surrender-mates, as well as Jeff Jones of Red Rider. He was on the road promoting the album when the second single, “Passion” – co-written by Bob Ezrin, noteable for his work with The Kings, Alice Cooper and Kiss was released. The two gold singles helped earn Zappacosta a Juno Award that year for most promising male vocalist. The album produced two more singles, fittingly enough, reworked versions of two Surrender tracks – “Start All Over” and “It’s All Been Done Before.”. He also guested on Kick Axe‘s version of “With A Little Help From My Friends” that summer.
Despite the success of his first venture, Capitol was still unsure about his value to the label and they stalled giving the go-ahead to a follow-up. That same year saw him contribute to the African famine-relief project “Tears Are Not Enough”. He recorded ZAPPACOSTA – A TO Z, which came out in 1986. Produced by Bob Rock, most noteable for his work with The Payola$, it contained guest appearances by a whole slew of friends, including former Surrender members Gerry Mosby and Gerald O’Brien, Rock and The Headpins‘ Brian MacLeod.
He immediately hit the road to support the new record and the first single “When I Fall In Love Again”. “Nothing Can Stand In Your Way”, a ballad co-written by David Foster, became the second single the next spring, earning him his second gold album. But Capitol was jerking his chain again so to keep himself occupied, he accepted an offer to star in ‘Evita’, winning critical praise for his role as Che Guevera while it ran in Halifax.
If going solo was a turning point in his career, 1988 marked a second. He was approached to record a song for an upcoming movie starring Patrick Swayze. ‘Dirty Dancing’ not only ended up being a huge box office hit, but the soundtrack, for which Zappacosta wrote “Overload” with Marco Lucciani, went on to become the biggest grossing to date selling over 20 million units. A TO Z garnered the artist his second Juno, this one for Album of the Year, as well as winning an American Music Award that year for “Overload”.
Fed up with being just another commodity with Capitol, he switched to the newly-founded Penta Records with Lou Blair’s business partner Bruce Allen. Unfortunately though the silver lining couldn’t hide the dark cloud, and Penta lost its distribution deal with Elektra on the eve of releasing Zappacosta’s new record.
He spent the next couple of years laying low, and hocked a few products, including doing a 60 second jingle for Pizza Nova, then used the royalties from “Overload” to set up his own company, A-Zee Records. He convinced Capitol to give him another try and after sitting on the shelf for nearly two years, QUICK … DON’T ASK ANY QUESTIONS saw the light of day in the summer of 1990. Backed by the first single “Letter Back”, the album showed a more mature writer and the other two singles, “I’ll Be The One” and “Simple Words To Say”, displayed his diverse range. Capitol released a ‘best of’ package in ’91 in their continuing OVER SIXTY MINUTES WITH … series.
In ’93, following a gruelling tour which saw him team up with old friends like Gerry Mosby and Steve Jensen, he decided to take some time off from recording to regroup and re-evaluate the whole scene, taking proper vocal lessons and learning classical guitar – a style he’d always admired but never mastered. He spent the better part of the next two years re-inventing himself, doing nightclubs across the country with a new supporting cast and wowing audiences with his unmatched personable flair and jazz/classical virtuosos.
He moved to Edmonton in ’94 after returning to his second love – theatre, starring in the lead role of “Jesus Christ Superstar” earlier that year. His talent on the theatre stage also landed him a role in “Hair” the same year.
His next album was released in ’95 on Sindrome Records. INNOCENCE BALLET gave proof of his expanding repetoire, now tapping into the adult contemporary market. “La Sorana”, “Madonna Che Suppresso” and “La Toscana” made evident his growing love for classical stylings. Also laced with jazz influences, the album also contained “Me and Mrs Jones”, “Give It Away” and “Close Your Eyes”.
Zappacosta found himself in Edmonton’s Royal Alexandra Hospital in intensive care the next year, following complications from pneumonia resulting from pancreatic cancer. He took time off to again re-evaluate his career, and this time life in general. His next project was DARK SIDED JEWEL, released in 1999. The first single “Adalina” instantly solidified him as a bona-fide jazz star, laying to rest any doubts that may have still been lingering regarding his ability to maintain that audience. As well as a successful solo and stage career, Zappacosta’s songs have been recorded by many other artists, including Jennifer Rush, Loverboy and a group in ’95 masquerading as The Guess Who, tho it did feature bassist Jim Kale.
He currently keeps himself busy working with other artists, as well as teaching vocals and guitars to budding musicians, and is said to be working on releasing a live album in the near future.