Italian singer Rita Monico is best known for the five singles she cut for the ARC label in the mid to late 1960s. She excelled at big, emotional numbers that wrung a tear from even the hardest of hearts. However, her career suffered from lacklustre promotion by her record company and sales proved slow.
Rita Monico was born in Milan in 1950. She took to singing from an early age, and at the age of just ten, she took part in her first talent contest, 1960’s Zecchino d’oro. She performed the song Giratondo dei nonni, which also gained a release on the Cricket label.
The record didn’t sell and the young singer was dismissed as a mere novelty act.
She took part in further events – including La maschera d’oro and La maschera d’argento – while she continued to hone her style.
By 1964, Rita was ready to launch herself again. Now aged 14, she signed up to the Fonola record label, which specialised in cut-price versions of hits of the day. There, she would cut a couple of songs that had been successes for Mina, È l’uomo per me and Città vuota. There was no great demand for covers of either song, and Rita’s 45 disappeared without trace.
A take on Gigliola Cinquetti’s Il primo bacio che darò fared no better later that year.
However, Rita’s time at Fonola led bosses at the ARC label, a subsidiary of RCA, to sit up and take notice of the singer. They offered her a contract – one that she didn’t hesitate in accepting.
She was whisked into the studio to cut her first record for the label. The result, issued in late 1964, was the pleasing Se tu non mi vuoi, with the even better Di sera on the flip. The latter was a cover of Elvis Presley’s It hurts me that showcased Rita’s emotional delivery to its best. However, the record company failed to promote the disc adequately, and Rita was lost among a host of bigger names on its roster, notably The Rokes.
Ennio Morricone was another artist in the ARC stable. When the composer needed a singer to provide the vocals for his title track of the comedy film Thrilling, it was to label mate Rita Monico he turned. Perhaps surprisingly, her recording was consigned to the B-side of a version of Jackie De Shannon’s What the world needs now is love, which became Quando tu vorrai. It proved a near-miss chart-wise – and matters were helped none by the release of a rival recording of the A-side by Madagascan six-some Les Surfs.
It took a full year for Rita to venture into the public eye again.
She was entered into the 1966 Cantagiro song festival, where she performed a highly credible version of The Shangri-Las’ Dressed in black, retited Non è mai tardi. Her recording of the girl group classic – again featuring musical support from Ennio Morricone’s orchestra – remains one of her finest. (The flip of the single was a confident take on Petula Clark’s Round every corner, Gocce di mare, gocce di sole.)
ARC’s PR team moved into full promotional mode for the contest and the ensuing European tour, which saw Rita perform with stars such as Gigliola Cinquetti and Rita Pavone in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Monaco, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland.
A one-off release in Spain, Puede ser, failed to capitalise on the singer’s live appearance in Barcelona as part of the tour. (The B-side, Lo que me pasa a mi, was a version of The Ivy League’s Funny how love can be.)
At home, Rita’s forays into the recording studio slipped to mere annual events – and succeeded in little more than keeping the singer tied to the record label. With no tour to promote, ARC’s press office resumed its customary indifference to Rita.
After another year-long gap, Rita returned with Nata per amare te in 1967. However, the single is now better known for its B-side, Sere vuote, a version of Dusty Springfield’s All I see is you.
Tu perdi tempo became 1968’s sole 45 – and her last for the label.
She was snapped up by the smaller European United Record label. Bosses there entered her into the 1969 Disco per l’estate contest with the pleasant La pace nel cuore. However, despite the publicity afforded by her appearance, the single fared no better than her previous releases.
After one further 45, Quelli, issued later that year, the singer found herself without a contract.
She continued to perform live.
In 1975, the newly blonde Rita returned to the recording studios – this time signed to United Artists – to cut Sono mia, the theme to the TV show Pianeta donna.
It was the singer’s final release. What became of her remains unclear.
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