Pavone in 1965
In 1962 she participated in the first Festival degli Sconosciuti ("Festival of the Unknown"), a song competition for amateur artists, winning the contest. 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, spending nine weeks at number one in Italy.
In the summer of 1964 she had chart success in North America with a single sung in English titled "Remember Me", backed with "Just Once More". The song reached #26 in the United States and #16 in Canada.
In 1965, Pavone participated as a musician guest on The Ed Sullivan Show, becoming a frequent guest there until 1970. Meanwhile, she scored a string of hits, both with ballads and rock songs, in Spain, where she became a teen idol. Pavone enjoyed so much fame in Spain that it was commented, during a 2005 television documentary from that country, that such success for a foreign singer there is rare.
In the United States she sang alongside Diana Ross and The Supremes, Ella Fitzgerald, Tom Jones, Duke Ellington, Paul Anka and a number of singers of the era. It is said that Elvis Presley made a painting of her after she went to Memphis and he met her at a recording studio. Barbra Streisand recorded a duet with her. Pavone sang at Carnegie Hall in New York city during this era.
Returning to Italy, she made her debut as an actress, working in five films and participating in shows such as Giornalino di Gian Burrasca (a children TV show), Alta Pressione, Stasera Rita ("Tonight Rita") and Studio Uno, a variety show. 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, together with the Giornalino di Gian Burrasca (1965) were directed by Lina Wertmüller. Although her movie career targeted a teen audience and lacked great artistic value, her movies have found today a cult niche.
Pavone was also popular in the UK for a short while in 1966 and 1967. RCA Victor issued two of her singles in quick succession both were hits, "Heart" peaking at #27 and "You Only You" peaking at #21, and in the UK Singles Chart. During this same period she appeared at the London Palladium.
In 1968 Pavone married in Switzerland her talent scout and organizer of the first song contest she won, Teddy Reno. This event caused a scandal in the Italian society of the time because Reno was still married to his first wife, Livia Protti, and in Italy there was no divorce law until 1970. They remarried each other in Italy in 1971. They had two sons, Alessandro (b. 1969) and Giorgio (b. 1974).
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.
Pavone and her husband Reno now live in Ticino, Switzerland. They have two sons, Alessandro and Giorgio, both of whom have become involved in showbusiness themselves, Alessandro as a radio show host and Giorgio as a rock singer.
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 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, but eventually returned to the label that had launched her, recording 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)
- R.P. (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)
- 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.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 421. ISBN 978-1-904994-10-7.
- Michael McKenna (6 November 2012). "Rita Pavone - Viva La Pappa Col Pomodoro" – via YouTube.
- "Heineken - The Match". Vimeo.