One of the very best of the crooners to come in the wake of the Sinatra craze, Vic Damone, has died after suffering respiratory failure on Sunday (February 11) in Miami Beach at the age of 89.
Born Vito Farinola in Brooklyn, NY, he was a big fan of the young Frank Sinatra, deciding to take vocal lessons so that he, too, could become a singer. When his father was injured and could no longer work, he started working at the local Paramount Theater as an usher and elevator operator. Perry Como was on the elevator one day with him when he decided to stop the lift between floors and sing for the star, asking his advice. Como sent him to a local band leader.
Changing his name to Vic Damone, he entered Arthur Godrey’s Talent Scouts in 1947 and ended up becoming a regular on the show. He soon was singing at two clubs and, by the middle of the year, had a contract with Mercury Records.
Right out of the box, Damone was a hit. His first two singles, “I Have But One Heart” and “You Do” both reached number 7 on the national charts. By 1949, he was at the top of the charts with “You’re Breaking My Heart” and, over the next seven years, reached the top ten seven more times including his one rock era hit, “On the Street Where You Live” (1956 / #4 U.S. / #1 U.K.).
Damone also took a shot at acting, starting with The Strip and Rich, Young & Pretty (both 1951) but his career trajectory was interrupted for two years while he served in the Army. After getting out in 1953, he continued to pursue both singing and acting with roles in films such as Hit the Deck and Kismet (both 1955).
Even after his hits dried up, he continued to record albums for both Columbia and, starting in 1961, Capitol. In 1962 and 1963, he also hosted the NBC variety show The Lively Ones.
Damone’s last charting song came in 1969 but, by that time, he was well established as a major draw in Las Vegas which led to touring the U.S. and Britain. He also turned down the role of Johnny Fontane in The Godfather, a role that went to Al Martino.
Vic’s last original album came out in 2002 and, after suffering a stroke, decided to stay in the background and formed Vintage Records with his son to re-release his catalog of over 2,000 recordings.
In his retirement years, Damone wrote his autobiography, Singing Was the Easy Part (2009), kept in touch with his fans through his Facebook page and spent time with family.
In 1997, Vic received the Sammy Cahn Life Achievement Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame and, in 2014, was presented with the first Legend Award from the Society For the Preservation of the Great American Songbook.
Over the years, Damone was married five times, including actress Diahann Caroll from 1987 to 1996. He had six daughters and six grandchildren.
Vic Damone’s top ten hits:
“I Have But One Heart” (1947 / #7)
“You Do” (1947 / #7)
“Again” (1949 / #6)
“You’re Breaking My Heart” (1949 / #1)
“My Bolero” (1949 / #10)
“Tzena Tzena Tzena” (1950 / #6)
“My Heart Cries For You” (1950 / #4)
“My Truly Truly Fair” (1951 / #4)
“Here in My Heart” (1952 / #8)
“April in Portugal” (1953 / #10)
“Ebb Tide” (1953 / #10)
“On the Street Where You Live” (1956 / #4 U.S. / #1 U.K.)
“You Were Only Fooling” (1965 / #30 Pop / #8 Adult Contemporary)