Monday, October 15, 2007

Vic Damone - A Singer's Singer?

There are two singers that for me come close to rivaling Frank Sinatra, one’s English, Matt Monro, and the other is the American Vic Damone. He must be pretty good because Frank himself said of Damone, “The singer with the best vocal equipment in the business.” He like Sinatra is of Italian ancestry and was born Vito Farinola in Brooklyn on June 12 1928. Inspired to sing by his mother, a piano teacher, Vito dreamed of a career in music. He worked as an usher at New York’s Paramount Theatre where he was encouraged by Perry Como – people today forget just what a huge star he was in the late 40s and 50s. . As Vic Damone he won a talent show on CBS radio and after a booking at La Martinique he actually ended up on stage at the Paramount backed by Stan Kenton’s Orchestra. Signed to Mercury Records his first recording was ‘I Have But One Heart’ and it climbed to No.7 on the Billboard chart in the summer of 1947 – it went higher than Sinatra’s version of the same song.

Vic, by his own admission, was inspired by Frank Sinatra and he had a voice that was very special and the looks to go with it. He topped the charts in 1949 with ‘You’re Breaking My Heart’ and had a string of hits over the following few years. MGM signed him to a movie contract in 1951, his first appearance was in the musical Rich Young and Happy (as Andre Milan!). He was called up for military service soon afterwards and after this brief career hiatus he returned to movies and making music. On leaving the army he appeared in cabaret accompanied by a young pianist who he met while doing military service, his name was Bert Bacharach. In 1955 Damone appeared in the MGM musical Kismet with Howard Keel and Ann Blyth. In 1956 he had his biggest hit for several years when ‘On The Street Where You Live’ made No.4 on the Billboard charts, staying there for twenty-five weeks. He topped the UK best sellers list with the same song two years later, helping to establish him as a firm favourite with British audiences.

With Pier Angeli

Vic Damone headed down the Las Vegas route in the late 1960s having also had a very successful career on his own TV variety shows. He had married the actress Pier Angeli (who had been James Dean’s girlfriend) in 1954 but they divorced in 1958. He married again in the early 1960s, this time to Judy Rawlins, who died in 1973. His third wife was Diahann Carroll who he married in 1987.

I went to see him in the late 1970s in London with the national Youth Jazz Orchestra and it was a wonderful show. He was still at the top of his game and if anything his voice was better than when he was younger. I still can hear him sing ‘If I Loved You’, ‘Still’ and ‘When I Dream’ – he was a gifted performer who we rarely hear of today.

After suffering a stroke in 2000 Vic Damone gave his last concert performance in February 2001 in West Palm Beach, Florida. Fittingly his last song at the concert was Harry Warren’s ‘An Affair to Remember’ which was a hit for Vic in 1957…….his performance of this classic has never been bettered. Visit Vic Damone’s web site for more


r morris said...

As a Sinatraphile, I will have to check out Mr. Damone's work. Thanks for the tip. :)

Elena said...

I have and still am a big fan of Vic Damone since late 1940's and 1950's. I have many cd's with all my favourite songs. I wonder if he remembers in the 1950's coming to Toronto, Ontario Canada and singing at a theatre called the "Casino" (not a gambling place), just entertainers. We saw him there. I think he is one of the greatest romance singers in that era and hopefully people will begin listening to his songs. I hope he is in good health and will be around for some time to come.

Anonymous said...

I saw Vic Damone at Palumbo's nightclub in Philly in the 60's. I was a fan from the first time I heard him in the 40's. He is the best pure singer of them all. I saw him several times after that in Atlantic city.

Richard Havers said...

I would love to have seen Vic in the early days, although he was still VERY good in the 70s