Patty Pravo went from nightclub singer to one of Italy’s most successful stars in the 1960s. Her 1968 hit La bambola remains one of the biggest-selling hits of all time.
She was born Nicoletta Strambelli on 9 April 1948 in Venice. While at school she studied music, dance and orchestra conducting, and aged ten, she enrolled in the Benedetto Marcello Conservatory.
At 15 she left home for London. After a few months she returned to Italy, and headed for Rome. She was spotted dancing in the city’s famous Piper club and was asked to perform there. As a result, the young blonde was offered a recording contract with the RCA label.
Billed as the Piper Girl, she released her first single, Ragazzo triste, a cover of Sonny Bono’s But you're mine, at the end of 1966. The single made number 13 in the Italian charts in January 1967.
She performed the rather naff Qui e là at the Cantagiro song festival. The song gained a release, but left the infinitely superior Sto con te consigned to the B-side. The single failed to make the top 40.
No matter. A third single, Se perdo te, would change the public’s perception of the young singer. The song was a cover of a single by UK-based American singer PP Arnold, The time has come. Released in 1968, it proved Patty's vocal ability and maturity, and made number 18 in the charts.
Her next release made the young singer an international star. Though she didn’t care for La bambola when she recorded it, it topped the charts in Italy and sold well throughout Europe and beyond, shifting around nine milion copies.
The search was on for a follow up, and initially Gli occhi dell’amore was chosen, but it was soon flipped to make Sentimento the A-side. It went on to reach number two in October of that year. She also released a successful album.
Tripoli 1969, a song she’d performed at 1968’s Canzonissima (finishing fifth), was issued as her next single and surprised many fans with its anti-feminist lyrics, which they knew to be at odds with her own beliefs. Nevertheless, it made number 13 in the charts in January 1969.
In the early spring she won the Festivalbar song contest with Il paradiso. The song, written by Mogol and Lucio Battisti, had been cut a year earlier as Il paradiso della vita by Ambra Borelli, as La Ragazza 77. When British group Amen Corner took their cover of it, (If paradise is) half as nice, to the top of the UK charts, it was decided to give the song another go in Italy. The result was another top ten hit for Patty. She also released the song in German, as Das Paradies auf dieser Welt.
In the autumn, she returned to the Canzonissimo contest with the beautiful José Feliciano composition Rain, which she performed as Nel giardino dell’amore, and which gave her a further top 20 hit.
Her success continued throughout the 1970s, but by the 1980s she had tired of Italy’s music scene and quit the country for the United States.
In 1994 she recorded an album in China, before returning to Italy in 1995. Within 18 months she had marked her return with an appearance at the San Remo song festival, and released a hugely successful album Notte, guai e libertà.
She continues to record and perform today.
With thanks to Angus Daye for additional research.
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