A star is (re)born

Israeli diva Rita has been seeing surprising success in the US.

February 25, 2010 03:29
2 minute read.

Rita . (photo credit: Noam Wild)

The category is the breakthrough artist of 2009, and the winner is… Rita??? It may sound surreal, but Israel’s longstanding queen of song may have a burgeoning career in the US, singing in English.

Unbeknownst to Rita, an English version she recorded three years ago of her hit “Bo,” renamed “Love has Begun,” has become a sleeper hit on a number of Top 40 American radio stations. The buzz has gotten so loud, in fact, that the diva was named by the US trade magazine New Music Weekly as Top 40 Breakthrough Artist for 2009.

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“It’s funny and a bit weird. I didn’t expect it at all, it’s something I really didn’t think about,” Rita told The Jerusalem Post this week as she prepared to travel to the US for a series of shows next month.

The way in which the song came to be recorded seems just as serendipitous as its success, she explained.

“I have an American friend who’s a lawyer, and for 20 years, he’s been talking to me about wanting to promote my music in the United States,” she said.  “I was sort of ambivalent, but about three years ago, he came to Israel and set everything up and we went into the studio and recorded two songs in English. Then I forgot about it.”

The friend was Florida attorney Arnold Beizer, a seemingly colorful character who’s active as director of Let Freedom Ring, Inc. Regarding American POWs still in Vietnam and a self-professed expert on Bible codes. Beizer and Miami producer Carlo Pennizi mixed the songs (“Love Has Begun” and a cover of  Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings”) and last year put them together with songs sung by a handful of American singers for an album called Love Has Begun (featuring Rita).

“Carlo took my vocals and brought them to the US. He then added all the other elements, including inviting other singers. I had nothing to do with it, but it came out great,” said Rita.

“A couple months ago, I started getting emails containing radio playlists and charts from the US and I’m on them. Then I was named the ‘breakout of the year’ by this magazine. It’s charming.” 

Hot on the heels of her well-received performance in Jerusalem earlier this month for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berloscuni, Rita’s US tour, which begins March 13 and includes two shows in New York and one each in Philadelphia, Miami and Los Angeles, was booked well in advance of  the song breakout.

Focusing on her latest album, Remazim, Rita has performed the well-received show over 200 times in Israel and abroad. And she said there’ll be a few changes for the American leg of the tour.

“I try to adapt my shows somewhat for an American audience. We’ll do a couple more Oriental-type songs, and now I have more English songs to perform. But most of the audience is usually Israeli,” she said.

However, based on the success of Love Has Begun, maybe this time there’ll be more American fans in the crowd to see this “newcomer,” Rita.

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