05 August 2013

Rita Pavone

Rita Pavone (1945) was one of the biggest teenage stars in Europe during the 1960s, and one of the few Italian pop stars to gain a foothold in the American market. Pavone also starred in several 'Musicarellos'.

Rita Pavone
German postcard by Krüger, no. 902/380. Photo: Teldec / Winkler / RCA.

Rita Pavone
Italian postcard. Photo: RCA.

New Teen Sounds
Rita Pavone was born Turin, Italy in 1945. Mark Deming at AllMusic: “Her father, who worked at a Fiat auto plant, was a big fan of American musical stars, particularly Al Jolson, Judy Garland, and Gene Kelly, and young Rita shared his tastes, often singing along with his records and taking singing lessons when she wasn't busy with school or her part-time job ironing shirts. In 1959, Rita made her public debut as a singer, impersonating Al Jolson in a children's talent contest; by this time, rock & roll had made its way to the continent, and she became an immediate fan of the new teenage sounds. In 1960, Pavone landed her first professional gig, performing for soldiers at Italian NATO bases, and after initial attempts to score a record deal or nightclub engagement proved fruitless, Pavone got her big break in the fall of 1962." She participated in the first Festa degli Sconosciuti (Festival of the Unknowns), a song competition for amateur artists. She won the contest, which was organised by singer and record producer Teddy Reno. The two fell in love. Rita was 17 and Teddy was 19 years her senior and already married, and father of a baby boy. However, they would always stay together. Her first single La partita di pallone (The Ball Game) was an immediate smash. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. Her album debut, simply titled Rita Pavone, made her a national star, and international attention soon followed. Her recording of Cuore (Heart) also sold a million copies in 1963, spending nine weeks at number one in Italy. In the summer of 1964 she had chart success in the United States with Remember Me, backed with Just Once More. Pavone sang at Carnegie Hall in New York city, and between 1964 and 1970, she was a frequent guest at the Ed Sullivan Show, the most popular variety show on American television. Pavone was also very successful in Europe. In the UK, RCA Victor issued two of her singles in quick succession in 1966 and 1967. Both were hits, Heart peaking at #27 and You Only You peaking at #21 in the UK Singles Chart. During this same period she appeared at the London Palladium. Spain would prove to be one of her biggest markets. In this country she scored a string of hits, both with ballads and rock songs and became a teen idol. Pavone recorded a total of thirteen albums. She mainly recorded for RCA until 1968, then she signed for a brief period with Ricordi which launched her vanity label, RitaLand. Eventually she returned to the label that had launched her, recording three more albums with RCA.

Rita Pavone
Dutch postcard by Muziek Parade, Hilversum, no. 6137.

Rita Pavone
German postcard by Filmbilder-Vertrieb Ernst Freihoff, Essen, no. 840. Retail price: 10 Pfg. Photo: Lothar Winkler.

In Italy, Rita Pavone also worked as an actress, and during the 1960’s, she starred in six films. The first was the French comedy Clémentine Chérie (Pierre Chevalier, 1963), featuring France Anglade. The others were the Musicarellos (Italian teen musicals of 1950s and 1960s) Rita, la figlia Americana/Rita, the American daughter (Piero Vivarelli, 1965) with Totò, Rita la zanzara/Rita the Mosquito (Lina Wertmüller, 1966) with Giancarlo Giannini, Non stuzzicate la zanzara/Don't Sting the Mosquito (Lina Wertmüller, 1967) with Giulietta Masina as Rita’s mother, the musical Western Little Rita nel west/Rita of the West (Ferdinando Baldi, 1967) with Terence Hill, and La Feldmarescialla/The Crazy Kids of the War (Steno, 1968). In the two Zanzara films, directed by Lina Wertmüller, ´Little Rita´ played a music student in love with her professor, who unknown to her is living a double life as a rock & roll singer. With Wertmüller she also made Giornalino di Gianburrasca/Gian Burrasca's Diary (1964-1965). For this TV series, she also contributed several songs. Pavone’s film career targeted a teen audience and lacked great artistic value, but today her films are cult favourites in Italy. In 1968 Pavone finally married Teddy Reno in a church in Lugano, Switzerland. This event caused a scandal because Reno was still married to his first wife, Livia Protti, and in Italy there was no divorce law until 1970. They re-married each other in Italy in 1971. Later on she would participate in comedy films, such as 2 sul pianerottolo/Two on the landing (Mario Amendola, 1975). On TV, she participated in shows such as Alta Pressione (High Pressure) (1967), Stasera Rita (Tonight Rita) and the variety series Studio Uno (1968). In 1982, she appeared in Come Alice (Like Alice), which became a hit in Italian television. In the theatre, she played Maria in a celebrated production of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. And her songs are on many film soundtracks. The main character in the Argentine film Nueve reinas/Nine Queens (Fabián Bielinsky, 2000) tries to remember a Pavone song throughout the film. The song Il Ballo Del Mattone (The Fool's Dance) plays as the credits run. In 2006, she announced her official retirement from show business. She was a Senate candidate in the Italian general election of 2006, for the centre-right list Per l'Italia nel Mondo (For Italy in the World) led by minister Mirko Tremaglia. Rita Pavone and her husband Teddy Reno now live in Ticino, Switzerland. They have two sons, Alessandro and Giorgio, both of whom have become involved in show business themselves, Alessandro as a radio show host and Giorgio as a rock singer.

Rita Pavone
French postcard by E.D.U.G., no. 369. Photo: G. Neuvecelle.

Rita Pavone sings Datemi un Martello (If I Had a Hammer) on a Rai TV Show. Source: Charassita (YouTube).

Rita Pavone sings Il plip in Rita, la figlia Americana/Rita, the American daughter (1965). Source: Paolo Bruzzone (YouTube).

Sources: Mark Deming (AllMusic), Small Wonder (Official Rita Pavone website), Wikipedia and IMDb.

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