She was born in Turin, Italy. In 1962 she participated in, and won, the first Festival degli Sconosciuti ("Festival of the Unknown"), a song competition for amateur artists. Her self-titled 1963 album, led by the hit single La Partita di Pallone ("The Soccer Game") made her a national star at 17, and international attention soon followed. La Partita di Pallone sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc. Her recording of Cuore ("Heart") also sold a million copies in 1963 and spent nine weeks at number one in Italy.
In the summer of 1964, she had chart success in North America with a single "Remember Me", sung in English, backed with "Just Once More". The song reached number 26 in the United States and number 16 in Canada.
In 1965, Pavone made her first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show; she became a frequent musical guest there until 1970. Meanwhile she scored a string of hits, both ballads and rock songs in Spain, where she became a teen idol, enjoying so much fame there that it was commented during a 2005 Spanish-television documentary that such success there for a foreign singer is rare.
In the United States she sang alongside Diana Ross and The Supremes, Ella Fitzgerald, Tom Jones, Duke Ellington, and Paul Anka. She also sang at Carnegie Hall in New York City. It is said that Elvis Presley made a painting of her after she went to Memphis and met her at a recording studio. It is also said that she recorded a duet with Barbra Streisand, but this has remained unsubstantiated. There is, however, an indoor photograph of Pavone and Streisand together, apparently shot in New York City in May 1964.
Returning to Italy, Pavone made her acting debut, working in five films and participating in shows such as Giornalino di Gian Burrasca (a children's TV show), Alta Pressione, Stasera Rita ("Tonight Rita"), and the variety show Studio Uno. In 1982, she participated in Come Alice ("Like Alice"), which became a hit on Italian television.
Rita Pavone starred in six movies during the 1960s: Clementine Cherie (1963), Rita, la Figlia Americana (1965), Rita La Zanzara (1966), Non Stuzzicate la Zanzara (1967), Little Rita nel West (1968), and La Feldmarescialla (1968). The two "Zanzara" movies and the Giornalino di Gian Burrasca (1965) were directed by Lina Wertmüller. Although her movie career targeted a teen audience and lacked great artistic value, today her films have found a cult niche.
Pavone was also popular in the UK during 1966 and 1967. RCA Victor issued two of her singles; in quick succession both were hits, "Heart" peaking at number 27 and "You Only You" peaking at number 21 in the UK Singles Chart. During this same period she appeared at the London Palladium. She also recorded Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Try It And See", which later became "King Herod's Song" in the rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar.
In 1968, Pavone married Teddy Reno in Switzerland. He was her talent scout and the organizer of the first song contest she won, but their union caused a scandal in Italian society, because he was still married to his first wife, Livia Protti, and Italy had no divorce law until 1970. They remarried in Italy in 1971 and had two sons: Alessandro in 1969 and Giorgio in 1974.
During the 1980s, Pavone acted in comedy films including 2 sul Pianerottolo, Risate in Salotto, and Santarellina.
In 1992, Pavone returned to the United States, where she sang during a multiple-artist concert that included Whitney Houston, Frank Sinatra, the Bolshoi Ballet, and Cher at the Sands hotel in Atlantic City. She then turned to theater acting and participated in a William Shakespeare play. In 2002 she gave a concert at Miami's Dade Auditorium.
The main character in the Argentinian film Nine Queens tries to remember the tune of a Rita Pavone song throughout the story; the song, "Il Ballo del Mattone", plays as the end credits run.
Pavone was a Senate candidate in the Italian general election of 2006. She participated as candidate for Per l'Italia nel Mondo (For Italy in the World), a centre-right list led by minister Mirko Tremaglia.
Pavone and her husband Reno now live in Ticino, Switzerland. Their elder son Alessandro is a radio-show host, and their younger son Giorgio is a rock singer.
Pavone recorded a total of 13 albums. She mainly recorded for RCA until 1968, then signed briefly with Ricordi, which launched her vanity label RitaLand, but she eventually returned to the label that had launched her and recorded three more albums with RCA.
- Rita Pavone (1963, re-released on CD format in 2003)
- Non è Facile Avere 18 Anni (1964)
- Il Giornalino di Gian Burrasca (1965)
- Stasera Rita (1965)
- È Nata una Stella (1966, compilation)
- Ci Vuole Poco (1967)
- Little Rita nel West (1968)
- Rita 70
- Viaggio a Ritaland (1970)
- Gli Italiani Vogliono Cantare (1972)
- Rita ed Io (1976)
- RP (1980)
- Gemma e le Altre (1989)
- Masters (2013)
- Rita Pavone - The International Teenage Sensation (1964)
- Small Wonder (1964)
- This is Rita Pavone (1965)
RCA singles 1963–1970
- "La Partita di Pallone" / "Amore Twist" (1963)
- "Come Te Non-C'è Nessuno" / "Clementine Cherie" (1963)
- "Alla Mia Età" / "Pel di Carota"
- "Cuore" / "Il Ballo del Mattone" (1963)
- "Non è Facile Avere 18 Anni" / "Son Finite le Vacanze" (1964)
- "Che M'Importa del Mondo" / "Datemi un Martello" (1964) (Italian cover of "If I Had a Hammer")
- "Scrivi" / "Ti Vorrei Parlare" (1964)
- "L'amore Mio" / "San Francesco" (1964)
- "Viva la Pappa col Pomodoro" / "Sei la Mamma" (1965)
- "Lui" / "La Forza di lasciarti" (1965)
- "Il Plip" / "Supercalifragilispiespiralidoso" (1965)
- "Stasera Con Te" / "Solo Tu" (1965)
- "Il Geghegè" / "Qui Ritornerà" (1965)
- "Fortissimo / La Sai Troppo Lunga" (1966)
- "Mamma Dammi la Panna" / "Col Chicco" (1966)
- "La Zanzara" / "Perchè Due non-Fa Tre" (1966)
- "Dove Non-So" / "Gira Gira" (1967)
- "Una Notte Intera" / "Questo nostro amore" (1967)
- "Una Notte Intera" Promo Jolly Hotels
- "I Tre Porcellini" / "Con un Poco di Zucchero" (1967)
- "Non Dimenticar le Mie Parole" / "Da Cosa Nasce Cosa" (1967)
- "Tu Sei Come" / "Ma Che Te Ne Fai" (1968)
- "Zucchero" (1969)
- "Ahi, Ahi Ragazzo" (1970)
|Rita the American Girl||1965||Rita Benvenuti||Feature film debut|
|Rita the Mosquito||1966||Rita Santangelo|
|Don't Sting the Mosquito||1967||Rita Santangelo|
|Rita of the West||1967||Little Rita|
|The Crazy Kids of the War||1967||Rita|
|Due sul pianerottolo||1976||Mimma Castigliano|
- Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 1922. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 164. ISBN 978-0-214-20512-5.
- Brioni, Cecilia (2017). "Between Two Stages: Rita Pavone and i Giovani on Studio Uno (1961–1966)". Italian Studies. 72 (4): 414–427. doi:10.1080/00751634.2017.1370895.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 421. ISBN 978-1-904994-10-7.
- Scarpone, Cristian (January 6, 2020). "Sanremo 2020: colpo di scena di Amadeus, due Big in più in gara". eurofestivalnews.com (in Italian). Retrieved February 5, 2020.
- Michael McKenna (November 6, 2012). "Rita Pavone – Viva La Pappa Col Pomodoro". YouTube.
- "Heineken – The Match". Vimeo.com.