Lita Torelló blossomed from being a child star to become one of Spain’s foremost ye-yé girls. With a string of hits to her name, she left an indelible mark on 1960s Spanish pop – before packing it all in for life as a housewife and mother. She remains best known for perky party hits such as Desafinado and St Tropez twist, but she also caused a stir among the Spanish authorities by recording in her native Catalan.
Lita Torelló was born Dolores Torelló on 11 May 1946 in Barcelona, Spain.
She developed a love of singing and performing at an early age and by the age of just nine, she was appearing in local radio programmes.
She began to make a name for herself as a regular on Radio Barcelona’s El club infantil and issued an EP with several of her co-stars in 1959.
In 1961, aged 15, Lita, as she was known, was offered a contract with the Vergara record label. This led to an invitation to take part in the Mediterranean song festival that year, in which she performed two entries. The ballad Presentimiento finished second, while the more upbeat Julio Verne, proved the more popular with record buyers, despite having come eighth.
After a couple of further releases – Basta and a take on Milva’s San Remo entry Tango italiano (perhaps better known internationally in a version by Connie Francis) – Lita returned to the Mediterranean song festival in 1962. She scored well with her Un sueño de amor, finishing in the top ten again.
The song gained a place in the soundtrack to the film Bahía de Palma, giving Lita’s public profile a further boost.
Hitting the big time
The singer’s next release would cement her position as one of Spain’s rising stars. Issued in 1962, the bossa nova-themed Desafinado proved highly popular. The disc also included El día más largo, the title track of the Spanish version of Ken Annakin’s film The longest day.
A second bossa nova-styled release followed, this time of Eydie Gormé’s Blame it on the bossa nova, retitled Cúlpale a la bossa nova. However, the disc found Lita competing with two of Spain’s other emerging ye-yé girls, Gelu and Rosalía, for record buyers’ pesatas – a move which harmed sales for all three artists.
The summer of 1963 saw Lita enter the Mediterranean song festival for the third and final time. Her entry, the sweet ballad Paz, finished second.
Lita made it clear to bosses at Vergara that she fancied recording in her native tongue. However, at that time, the use of Catalan was frowned upon – and, indeed, actively discouraged by Franco’s government. This left many major record companies shying away from releasing material in the language. Nevertheless, the Christmas-themed Lita Torelló y Josep Guardiola canten el nadal EP filled many a stocking that year.
1964 began with the release of the cracking St Tropez twist EP. The title track, like much of Lita’s material, was a translation of an Italian hit – in this case, of a song originally performed by Peppino di Capri. A take on German star Manuela’s Mama proved another highlight of the EP.
The arrival of British beat
Slowing the pace briefly, Cae la nieve, a version of Belgian singer Salvatore Adamo’s Tombe la neige, sold well that spring. The EP also provided Lita’s first brush with the emerging British beat sound, with the inclusion of Ahora te puedes marchar, a take on Dusty Springfield’s I only want to be with you. Further British hits would soon find their way into the singer’s repertoire – followed by an image overhaul: shorter skirts and a new hairdo, bringing Lita bang up to date.
La más bella del baile, already a big hit for Sylvie Vartan, and Qué harás, a collection of translation of French and Italian songs by Mina and others, served as potboilers for Lita’s fans for the remainder of the year.
However, Alguien ye-yé, issued in early 1965, marked a return to form. The title track has become one of the singer’s best-loved songs. Lita’s version of Twinkle’s Ain’t nobody home but me, Ven a casa, and even her unusually jazzy take on Petula Clark’s often-covered Downtown, Chao chao, also found favour with fans.
Widening her appeal further, the singer voiced the part of Julie Andrews in the Spanish versions of both The sound of music and Chitty chitty bang bang.
However, a take on Sandie Shaw’s Long live love, Viva el amor, was issued in competition with a Spanish version by the British beat babe herself, which affected sales.
Concentric’s Catalan releases
Keen to record more frequently in Catalan, Lita secured a two-disc deal with the Concentric label. The first of these releases, Fantastic Lita, deserved its immodest title for its lead track alone, No l’ho diré pas. The song is considered one of the highlights of the singer’s career.
The second EP led with a Catalan translation of Downtown.
The beginning of the end
Returning to Vergara, Lita issued the widely overlooked Ser y no ser EP – another collection of translations of Italian hits.
By 1966, the singer was facing stiff competition from younger, cooler ye-yé girls. She rose to the challenge readily with EPs such as El derecho de amar, of which the highlight was the catty Rubia rubia.
Further decent releases followed in the form on Bang, bang (a version of the Cher song) and Perdónala.
1967’s Adiós amor proved Lita’s final EP. The title track was a take on French singer Sheila’s million seller of the same name, while takes on Lulu’s The boat that I row (El bote que remo) and Rocky Roberts’ Stasera mi butto (Esta noche me decido) also proved worthy inclusions. Although sales were sluggish, the record stands as a highly respectable last hurrah.
Within a year, Lita had married and decided to pack in her career as a singer to become a full-time wife and mother.