he’s been compared to The Beatles and Brenda Lee, but you may not be familiar with the name Rita Pavone. This Italian singer captivated her homeland in the 1960s before making her mark in the United States.
Despite her legendary status in Italy, Rita Pavone never quite achieved the same level of fame across the Atlantic. So, how did she become a star, and what is she up to now? Let’s delve into the incredible story of Rita Pavone, including her unforgettable encounter with Elvis.
The Early Years and Rise to Fame
Born on August 23, 1945, in Turin, Italy, Rita Pavone was destined to be a performer. With her father working at the Fiat factory and her mother raising her and her three brothers, Rita’s passion for singing developed at a young age. She started singing at parties and in Turin bars, but it wasn’t until the early 1960s, as pop music gained popularity worldwide, that her life changed forever.
Rita took part in the first “Rally of the Unknown,” a talent competition held in Rome. Against her mother’s advice, she participated, feeling it was her last chance to pursue her dreams.
To her surprise, she won the competition and became an overnight sensation. Her first album, “La Partita di Pallone” (“The Ball Game”), was recorded in a matter of weeks, and Rita dazzled audiences with her live performances and appearances on Italian television shows.
She quickly caught the attention of international markets, with songs translated into foreign languages specifically for different countries like Brazil, England, France, and Germany.
The Unique Charm of Rita Pavone
What made Rita Pavone so successful? She often wonders herself, but one thing is clear: she had a unique voice and a strong personality that made her stand out. Rita believes her high-pitched, cutting voice played a significant role in her success.
She describes herself as having a face that is “halfway between a girl and a boy” with red hair and freckles. This distinctive appearance became a talking point when she entered the world of television, challenging society’s expectations of femininity. As Rita once said, “You don’t have to dress like a woman to be a woman.”
The Unforgettable Meeting with Elvis Presley
Throughout her career, Rita Pavone had the opportunity to meet some of the greatest singers of all time. She shared the stage with legends like Diana Ross and The Supremes, Ella Fitzgerald, and Tom Jones. However, one encounter stands out above all the rest: her meeting with the King of Rock himself, Elvis Presley.
While recording in Nashville, Rita found herself in the same studio where Elvis was scheduled to visit. When she discovered this, she begged her producer, Chet Atkins, to let her know when Elvis arrived. Finally, that moment came. Rita describes waiting until midnight in the RCA studios, feeling both excited and nervous. When Elvis entered the room, wearing yellow Ray-Bans and stunning sideburns, he greeted everyone before approaching her.
Rita mustered the courage to ask Elvis for a photo, and to her surprise, he was more than accommodating. He even went a step further and had his secretary present her with a signed painting before saying goodbye. This encounter left a lasting impression on Rita, and she considers the painting one of her most cherished mementos.
Rita’s Journey Continues
Despite achieving great success in Italy and other parts of the world, Rita Pavone faced challenges breaking into the United States. The popularity of “Beatlemania” at the time made it difficult for any other artist to shine as brightly.
After five years of trying without significant breakthroughs, Rita decided to return to Italy and focus on her television career. She starred in the 1965 series “Il Giornalino di Gian Burrasca” and appeared in numerous series and films.
During her time back in Italy, Rita found love with Teddy Reno, the man who initially accepted her into the talent show that launched her career. Their relationship faced scrutiny and criticism due to the significant age gap between them, but they proved the doubters wrong by getting married in 1968.
Rita Pavone’s career has spanned decades, and though she officially retired from the stage in the mid-2000s, she made a comeback seven years later. In 2016, she even competed in the Italian version of “Dancing with the Stars,” showcasing her enduring passion for performing. Rita is set to perform at the prestigious Sanremo Festival in 2020 and will also feature in a Christmas special the following year. Currently residing in Ticino, Switzerland, with her husband Teddy, Rita continues to inspire fans around the world with her incredible journey.
Rita Pavone’s story is a testament to the power of talent, perseverance, and the remarkable encounters that can shape a career. From her humble beginnings in Italy to sharing the stage with icons and meeting Elvis Presley, Rita Pavone has left an indelible mark on the music industry. Her unique voice, strong personality, and refusal to conform to societal expectations have made her a beloved figure. Let’s celebrate the extraordinary journey of this Italian sensation and share her incredible story with friends and family.