Born Vito Farinola on June 12, 1928, in Brooklyn, NY; son of Rocco Farinola (an electrician); married Pier Angeli (an actress), divorced; married and divorced two wives; married Diahann Carroll (an actress and singer), 1987, divorced, 1996; married Rena Rowan (a fashion designer), c. 1998; four children, five grandchildren. Addresses: Agent--c/o Rob Wilcox, Wilcox Public Relations, 23734 Valencia Boulevard, Valencia, CA 91335, phone: (661) 260-0810.
Among the more prominent of the pop-singing crooners of the mid-twentieth century, Vic Damone recorded more than 2,000 songs during an active career that began in 1947 and spanned 54 years. With a lush and mellow baritone, he possessed one of the finest singing voices of his era and was widely acknowledged by critics as one of the best crooner of the times. Even in his later concerts, his voice never faltered nor did it lose its easy tone. Instead, according to critics, the depth of emotion in his singing voice was improved by life experience as he aged. Damone, who announced his retirement in 2000, embarked on a farewell tour that lasted into 2001. With a sold-out concert at Florida's Kravis Center in February of 2001 and his ultimate farewell concert set at Carnegie Hall in May of that year, Damone closed the chapter on one of the most impressive singing careers on record.
Damone was born Vito Farinola on June 12, 1928, in Bensonhurst in Brooklyn, New York, the only son among five siblings. His father, Rocco Farinola, was an electrician; his mother taught piano. Damone quit high school to find work to help support himself and his sisters after a serious industrial accident left his father disabled. Damone, an aspiring singer at age 17, worked as an usher at the Paramount Theater. Because of his open and easy nature he had the good fortune to befriend a string of show-business professionals who helped him along the path to his chosen career. He encountered vocalist Perry Como in an elevator one day and performed a spontaneous audition for Como. Damone's voice spoke for itself, and Como offered referrals along with encouragement. Over time the two developed a lasting friendship. Two years later, on March 8, 1947, Damone landed an opportunity to sing his radio debut, and before long comedian Milton Berle espoused the cause of Damone's career. Berle arranged for Damone to sing "Prisoner of Love" on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, and when Damone won the competition, Berle assisted him in securing a job at a Manhattan nightclub, called La Martinique. Damone signed with Mercury Records and released his early classic, "I Have but One Heart," to a receptive public that same year. He made live appearances at the Copa and at the Paramount and was hired to host a weekly radio program, called Saturday Night Serenade,on CBS. It was on the occasion of his first radio appearance on WHN in 1947, that Damone, still known as Vito Farinola, opted to use his mother's maiden name of Damone as a pseudonym.
Damone's work on Mercury Records brought him abundant success during the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s. Among his more popular renditions, he recorded a number of show tunes and a selection of Italian-language folk songs. In 1948 Damone's recording of "Again" sold one million records, and he repeated the feat with "You're Breaking My Heart" in 1949. He performed with prominent popular orchestras, often with bandleader Richard Heyman as well as Glenn Osser and George Siravo. Damone's warm baritone appealed to film producers and led to a limited career in motion pictures during the 1950s. After a film debut with Jane Powell in Young, Rich, and Pretty in 1951, he was seen and heard most notably in the motion picture production of the musical Kismet in 1954.
Damone switched labels, to Columbia Records, in the mid 1950s. In 1956 he recorded "On the Street Where You Live," a popular romantic ballad from Lerner & Loewe's hit Broadway musical, My Fair Lady.That song by Damone easily worked its way into the top 20 and earned Damone his third gold record and signaled the peak of his career. Soon afterward the rock 'n' roll music craze and the British Liverpool sound invaded America and dominated popular music and the radio airwaves throughout the 1960s. Damone briefly considered adapting his style to accommodate the contemporary fad, but opted instead to shift his venue from the recording studio to the live stage. He cancelled his contract with RCA Victor Records and established a comfortable niche in performing live in clubs and in Las Vegas, where his following of fans never waned. Critics never wearied of complimenting Damone's inherent talent and style, which was completely devoid of gimmicks. He presented instead a repertoire of straightforward and unabashed renditions of easy-listening songs. He never veered from his comfortable singing range nor did he abandon the comfort and confidence of his relaxed singing style. As David Finkle noted in Village Voice, Damone throughout his career retained "... an implicit understanding of precisely how to match swinging musicianship to the emotional truth behind a lyric so that neither obscures the other ... a rare vocal alchemy ..." In an often-publicized remark during Damone's early career, the late singing idol and movie star, Frank Sinatra, paid Damone an exceptional compliment, noting that Damone had, "... the best pipes in the business."
The 1980s witnessed a revival of Damone's recording career, when he signed for a second time with RCA Victor Records. Over the course of the ensuing two decades he expanded his characteristic nightclub repertoire, moving from his old standards and cabaret fare into modern classics, by Irving Berlin, Johhny Mercer, and George and Ira Gershwin. Despite a conservative aura, Damone never stifled the natural amiability of his personality, injecting well-timed winks, ad-libs, and off-the-wall melody inuendos and slight improvisations that successfully breathed freshness into every performance.
Damone's enduring popularity was punctuated on six occasions by performances at the White House, including three performances for President Ronald Reagan during the 1980s. In 1996, as he approached 70 years of age, Damone recorded a popular new album, Vic Damone Sings the Greatest Love Songs of the Century, for Q Records. The unconstrained baritone never faded, and as Damone entered his seventies he attracted audiences and retained critical approval. When he embarked on a farewell tour beginning at Long Island's Westbury Music Fair on May 27, 2000, he easily drew sellout crowds. The tour continued for one year, encompassing mainstream venues such as the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, in February of 2001 with a final farewell concert set for Carnegie Hall in New York on May 18 of that year. Both "On the Street Where You Live" and "You're Breaking My Heart" had sold more than three million copies by his retirement in 2001.
As the 1990s drew to a close Damone undertook a project to pen his autobiography, called Singing Was the Easy Part. According to Damone, the title alludes to sidenotes to his singing career, which included a bout with financial instability and a string of marriages, the first being to the late actress, Pier Angeli, in 1954. He had married twice more by 1984 when he met his fourth wife, singer/actress, Diahann Carroll, whom he divorced in 1996 after four years of marriage and six years of separation.
In the shadow of pending retirement Damone maintained his characteristically active pace both in his professional career and in his private life. He was wed for the fifth time in the late 1990s to designer Rena Rowan. He is a father of four, including a son, Perry, named after Perry Como. With close family ties to his children and five grandchildren, he moved to Palm Beach County in Florida also in the late 1990s, to be closer to his extended family. Damone, a one-time Catholic, embraced the Baha'i faith during the height of his popularity in the 1960s. He is a part-time inventor of practical gadgets to improve the quality of life, and he likes to golf.
In 1997 he returned to his alma mater, Lafayette High School in Brooklyn, where he completed the necessary schoolwork to earn his long abandoned high school diploma. He graduated proudly from high school at age 68 and was honored to present an address to the student body at the commencement exercise that year. Also that year he was the honored recipient of the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award at the Songwriters Hall of Fame annual awards presentation on June 10 in New York City.
by Gloria Cooksey
Vic Damone's Career
Radio debut, March 8, 1947; star of Saturday Night Serenade, CBS Radio, 1947; has recorded for Mercury, RCA, Columbia, Capitol, Warner Brothers; film career: Kismet, Deep in My Heart, Hit the Deck; farewell tour, 2000-2001.
Vic Damone's Awards
Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award from Songwriters' Hall of Fame, 1997.
- Selected discography
- Vic Damone , Mercury, 1950.
- Rich, Young and Pretty (soundtrack), MGM, 1951.
- Christmas Favorites , Mercury, 1951.
- Take Me in Your Arms , Mercury, 1952.
- Vocals by Vic , Mercury, 1952.
- April in Paris , Mercury, 1952.
- Athena (soundtrack), Mercury, 1954.
- Deep in My Heart (soundtrack), MGM, 1955.
- The Stingiest Man in Town (soundtrack), Columbia, 1956.
- That Towering Feeling! Columbia, 1956.
- The Voice of Vic Damone , Mercury, 1956.
- Yours for a Song , Mercury, 1957.
- Affair to Remember , Epic, 1957.
- The Gift of Love (soundtrack), Columbia, 1958.
- Angela Mia , Columbia, 1959.
- Closer Than a Kiss , Columbia, 1959.
- This Game of Love , Columbia, 1959.
- On the Swingin' Side , Columbia, 1961.
- Linger Awhile with Vic Damone , Capitol, 1962.
- The Lively Ones , Capitol, 1962.
- Strange Enchantment , Capitol, 1962.
- The Liveliest , Capitol, 1963.
- My Baby Loves to Swing , Capitol, 1963.
- On the Street Where You Live , Sony, 1964.
- You Were Only Fooling ,Warner, 1965.
- Arrivederci Baby (soundtrack), RCA Victor, 1966.
- Why Can't I Walk Away , RCA Victor, 1968.
- Stay with Me , RCA Victor, 1976.
- Make Someone Happy , Vianda, 1981.
- On the South Side of Chicago , RCA Victor, 1984.
- Damone Type of Thing , RCA Victor, 1984.
- Christmas with Vic Damone , RCA Victor, 1984.
- Greatest Love Songs of the Century , Q Records, 1997.
- AP Online, April 17, 2000; June 27, 2000.
- Billboard, June 14, 1997, p. 35.
- Fox News Transcripts, May 18, 2000.
- Palm Beach Post, February 4, 2000, p. 1E; May 26, 2000, p. 1E; February 11, 2001, p. 1B; February 13, 2001, p. 1D.
- Record(Bergen County, NJ), June 29, 2000, p. H10.
- Village Voice, September 12, 1995, p. 45; January 27, 1998, p. 4; February 10, 1998, p. 116.
- "Vic Damone," GetMusic, http://www.getmusic.com/AMG?artist=12681 (May 31, 2001).
- "Vic Damone reminisces about his beginnings," Jam Music,March 5, 1997, http://www.sunmedia.ca/JamMusicArtistsD/damone_vic.html (March 29, 2001).
- "Vic Damone," Len Triola Promotional Services, http://www.lentriola.com/damone.htm (March 29, 2001).