Rita Pavone - 'Teen, September 1964
Rita Pavone was an Italian singing sensation in the mid-'60s who rose to international fame. The Italian singer was a striking departure from the ultra feminine yé-yé girls coming from France, with a "boyish" androgynous look that was not very common back then and sparked controversy. 'Teen magazine did a profile on the singer when she was touring America in 1964. Here are some excerpts from the story:
Glancing quickly at the rusty-haired singer's looks it's obvious that she 's no rival to the Sophia Lorens and Gina Lollobrigidas of the world. Her height is barely five feet and her figure is a flat-chested 80 pounds. Her usual working clothes, as described in Vogue Magazine, are a pair of men's slacks, a shirt, boots and a cap. The slacks are dark blue and the blouse light blue. She also wears suspenders and a black beanie. "Slinky gowns couldn't do much for me," Rita admits. "I feel more natural in slacks and a shirt, and I can be more agile on the stage. And I don't want any gimmicks. I just want people to like my singing."
One of the main controversies surrounding her image was that she was cast in the lead role on Italy's Dennis The Menace. "Playing a boy on Italian television is certainly an unusual role for a birdlike girl singer. But her performances endeared her to thousands of TV watchers in Italy. Many however, did not buy her antics and as a result, she's sometimes referred to as "horrible" and "abominable."
Of course, as with most child stars, she had a manager who would be quite influential. Teddy Reno, who was a founder of one of Italy's first record companies in 1948 and was a popular recording star in the '50s. His focus shifted in the '60s to seek out and develop new talent, particularly through his "Festival of Strangers," which Rita Pavone was a contestant and winner. Shed later marry Reno, which would spark another controversy - particularly because he was still technically married (divorce was still illegal in Italy), and there was around a twenty year age difference between the two.
Rita's image was constructed primarily to defy the yé-yé girls, and to shift focus to what matters - the music. Rita's stage presence was also quite a departure - she commanded the stage and had a toughness, street-smart sensibility, and infectious energy that starkly contrasted the soft and sweet French Lolitas. Defying what a girl should look like, sound like, act like was quite radical in an era where androgyny was not so common in pop culture (that would change in the '70s). Her ability to both rock and to carry torch song ballads shows amazing range, and in the mid to late '60s, Pavone was on top of the world, and much of that success is attributed to the fact that she stayed true to herself, dressed how she felt (although, as her star rose, she'd be wearing dresses for her performances), and didn't seem to care that people thought she looked "like a boy." The proof was in the music, and the music is everlasting.
In the '70s, Pavone slowed down a bit, but recorded the novelty hit in 1977 "My Name Is Potato" which is pretty silly, but delightful and charming nonetheless.