Longtime City Island resident and musician Pepe Cardona sings his last tune

Pepe Cardona with longtime friend and fellow Bronxite Gene DiNapoli.
Courtesy of Manny Brac

For 50 years, Pepe Cardona’s life was dedicated to music. Last week, the singer from the band Alive N Kickin’ and longtime City Island resident lost his battle with cancer.

On July 28, Cardona, 72, passed away in Michigan accompanied by his wife Maria and son Tim. A funeral and memorial will take place in September.

“It’s with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of our lead singer Pepe Cardona,” the band said on Facebook. “His tireless dedication and energetic performances kept the ‘Kickin” in Alive N Kickin’ for fifty years! He was one of a kind, and will be missed. Rest in peace, Pepe.”

A fundraiser and celebration for Cardona took place on Aug. 5 in Long Island.

Pepe with his son Tim. Courtesy of Manny Brac

Cardona fought stage 3 pancreatic cancer since October 2019 and in April 2020, the doctors removed the tumors. But shortly after that, doctors found a large mass in his stomach, which he could not overcome.

He grew up in Brooklyn and lived in the Bronx for about 30 years. While the group was known mainly for their 1970 hit singleTighter, Tighter,” which reached number seven on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, his longtime friend and fellow Bronxite Gene DiNapoli said that he was one of a kind.

“He was the most humble person you would want to meet,” DiNapoli said. “He was a local hero who never said no to any charity or any benefit.”

Cardona’s proclamation from Harrison Summer Concerts for 50 years of great music. Courtesy of Dave Franze

DiNapoli, a renowned Elvis impersonator, met Cardona about 40 years ago as their paths crossed at a performance. They instantly clicked and became lifelong friends.

The duo worked together at a few events in the 80s and 90s and DiNapoli recalled how Cardona was always smiling and loved people and music.

“Music was both our passions, so we talked a lot about music,” he told the Bronx Times.

He reminisced about how Cardona used to come to his house and ask for advice about performing. DiNapoli would say, “you had a hit record” and he would reply, “everybody’s advice is worth something.”

Pepe with Alive N Kickin’. Courtesy of Manny Brac

DiNapoli is meeting with elected officials in the near future and is hoping to get a street named after Cardona.

Dave Franze of West Harrison, was friends with Cardona for the last decade. While Franze is a fitness trainer, he is also the volunteer concert coordinator for Harrison summer concerts.

Several years ago, he met Cardona when looking for summer bands. The two quickly became friends.

“I was totally impressed with his professionalism and what a great guy he seemed to be and was,” he said. “There was no rock star ego. He was an incredible performer who could read the crowd as good as anybody who picked up a microphone.”

Pepe Cardona with his friend Dave Franze.Courtesy of Dave Franze

Franze recalled how he had never danced at a concert prior to hearing Cardona sing. As time passed, they grew close and he even trained Cardona for two years.

According to Franze, Cardona was a “rock and roll encyclopedia.” In 2018, he presented him with a proclamation from Harrison for 50 years in service to music.

“He was a major influence in my life,” he stressed. “He was also one of the most positive people I’ve ever seen in my life.”

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