Singer Ivana was one of Spain’s sexiest ye-yé girls. But even in an age where Carnaby Street-styled dolly birds featured in all the magazines, record industry executives didn’t know how to make the most of the singer’s appeal. Eventually, they got it right, and she became a frequent guest on TV and landed a starring role in the pop film A 45 revoluciones por minuto before quitting the music business altogether.
She was born María Rosario Gaspar Díaz in Malaga, on Spain’s southern coast, the Costa del Sol, in August 1946.
She moved to Madrid and landed a contract with Columbia in 1964. Label bosses put her forward for the national final to choose a song to represent Spain at the 1965 Eurovision song contest. However, state broadcaster TVE opted to have Conchita Bautista perform her song, ¡Qué bueno, qué bueno!, instead. (Conchita won the final in Barcelona but finished way behind France Gall at the pan-European final.)
Nevertheless, Columbia issued Ivana’s version as the lead track on her first EP, though fans often cite No volveré a llorar por ti as their favourite from the release.
The problem was that the label didn’t know quite how to pitch the singer. Her image went from one extreme to the other – her debut EP played down her sex appeal, while her 1966 follow up single, Perdónale, had her pictured in a bikini (in the snow, of all things) on its sleeve.
A second EP, issued later in 1966, trod a middle ground, image-wise. Musically, the release led with the dramatic Es la última noche and also included the rocky Dos veces no, a version of French star Sylvie Vartan’s It’s not a game.
In 1967 Ivana took part in the Benidorm song festival with Algo mágico, but lost out to fellow ye-yé girl Betina. Her song was issued as a single, with Bibi on the flip.
By this time, Ivana had become a familiar face on Spanish TV screens, and her 1967 single Judy con disfraz – her take on John Fred and the Playboy Band’s Judy in disguise (with glasses) – proved popular.
If Columbia’s publicity department had dithered over how to market the singer previously, by 1968 it was keen to promote her as a sex bomb. Ivana’s first single of 1968 pulled out all the stops – she was pictured on the sleeve of Dias para una mañana in a leather mini-dress, with her long hair cascading over her shoulders. Interestingly, the B-side, Quiero romper tus cartas, has enjoyed a more lasting popularity.
A car accident put Ivana out of action for a while, until she was asked to compete to represent Spain at the Eurovision song contest. The national final was much hyped, as Madrid was playing host to the 1969 contest following Massiel’s win a year earlier. However, Ivana’s Qué bonita es la vida is perhaps best overlooked, and, ultimately, Salomé was picked as the Spanish entrant and went on to share the European trophy with three other female singers, Britain’s Lulu, France’s Frida Boccara and the Netherlands’ Lennie Kuhr.
Ivana wasn’t too disappointed – she’d been filming the female lead in A 45 revoluciones por minuto, which featured music by Waldo de los Ríos. The film is regarded as the highpoint of her career and during it, Ivana performed the song No me la puedo creer, which, arguably, borrowed from the popular Aquarius, from the musical Hair. The song was also issued as a single.
Surprisingly, however, at the height of her career, Ivana opted to abandon music for a career in journalism, in which she proved successful.