Vic Damone

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Vic Damone
Vic Damone 1959.JPG
Damone in 1959
Background information
Birth nameVito Rocco Farinola
Born(1928-06-12)June 12, 1928 [1]
Brooklyn, New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedFebruary 11, 2018(2018-02-11) (aged 89)
Miami Beach, Florida, U.S.
  • Singer
  • Songwriter
Years active1947–2001

Vic Damone (born Vito Rocco Farinola; June 12, 1928 – February 11, 2018) was an American traditional pop and big band singer, actor, radio and television presenter, and entertainer. He is best known for his performances of songs such as the number one hit "You're Breaking My Heart", and "On the Street Where You Live" (from My Fair Lady ) and "My Heart Cries for You" which were both number four hits. [2]

Pop music is a genre of popular music that originated in its modern form in the United States and United Kingdom during the mid-1950s. The terms "popular music" and "pop music" are often used interchangeably, although the former describes all music that is popular and includes many diverse styles. "Pop" and "rock" were roughly synonymous terms until the late 1960s, when they became increasingly differentiated from each other.

Big band music ensemble associated with jazz and Swing Era music

A big band is a type of musical ensemble that usually consists of ten or more musicians with four sections: saxophones, trumpets, trombones, and a rhythm section. Big bands originated during the early 1910s and dominated jazz in the early 1940s when swing was most popular. The term "big band" is also used to describe a genre of music. One problem with this usage is that it overlooks the variety of music played by these bands.

"You're Breaking My Heart" is a popular song. The song was published in 1948. Though credited to Pat Genaro and Sunny Skylar, the song is an English version of the famous Italian song 'Mattinata' written by Ruggero Leoncavallo in the beginning of 20th century.


Life and work

Early life

St Finbar's Church, Brooklyn Finbar RCC Benson Av B19 St jeh.jpg
St Finbar's Church, Brooklyn

Damone was born Vito Rocco Farinola in Brooklyn, New York, to Rocco and Mamie (Damone) Farinola, Italian emigrants from Bari, Italy. His father was an electrician and his mother taught piano. His cousin was the actress and singer Doretta Morrow. Inspired by his favorite singer, Frank Sinatra, Damone began taking voice lessons. He sang in the choir at St. Finbar's Church in Bath Beach, Brooklyn, for Sunday Mass under organist Anthony Amorello.

Bari Comune in Apulia, Italy

Bari is the capital city of the Metropolitan City of Bari and of the Apulia region, on the Adriatic Sea, in southern Italy. It is the second most important economic centre of mainland Southern Italy after Naples and Palermo, a port and university city, as well as the city of Saint Nicholas. The city itself has a population of 326,799, as of 2015, over 116 square kilometres (45 sq mi), while the urban area has 750,000 inhabitants. The metropolitan area has 1.3 million inhabitants.

Doretta Morrow US singer and actress

Doretta Morrow was an American actress, singer and dancer who appeared in stage and television productions during the 1940s and 1950s. She is best remembered for having created roles in the original productions of three successful Broadway musicals: Kitty Verdun in Where's Charley? (1948), Tuptim in The King and I (1951) and Marsinah in Kismet (1953). She co-starred in the 1952 Hollywood film Because You're Mine, as Mario Lanza's love interest. She appeared in several live television musicals. She retired from performance in 1960 at the age of 33.

Frank Sinatra American singer, actor, and producer

Francis Albert Sinatra was an American singer, actor and producer who was one of the most popular and influential musical artists of the 20th century. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 150 million records worldwide.

When his father was injured at work, Damone had to drop out of Lafayette High School. He worked as an usher and elevator operator at the Paramount Theater in Manhattan. [3]

Lafayette High School (New York City) school located in the Bath Beach section of Brooklyn, New York City, New York

Lafayette High School was a large secondary school located in the Bath Beach section of Brooklyn, New York City, New York. During the last twenty years it became one of the low performing high schools of the city but provided a quality education most of its history.

Paramount Theatre (New York City) former movie theater and theater in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, United States

The Paramount Theatre was a noted 3,664 seat movie palace located at 43rd Street and Broadway in the Times Square district of New York City. Opened in 1926, it was a premiere showcase theatre and New York headquarters of Paramount Pictures. Adolph Zukor, founder of Paramount predecessor Famous Players Film Company, maintained an office in the building until his death in 1976. The Paramount Theatre eventually became a popular live performance venue. The theater was closed in 1964 and its space converted to office and retail use. The tower which housed it, known as the Paramount Building located at 1501 Broadway, is in commercial use as an office building and is still home to Paramount Pictures offices, and remains a Times Square landmark.


Damone met Perry Como while at the Paramount Theater. Damone stopped the elevator between floors and sang for him. Como was impressed and referred him to a friend for an audition. [4]

Perry Como American singer, actor, television personality

Pierino Ronald "Perry" Como was an American singer, actor and television personality. During a career spanning more than half a century he recorded exclusively for RCA Victor for 44 years, after signing with the label in 1943. "Mr. C.", as he was nicknamed, sold millions of records and pioneered a weekly musical variety television show. His weekly television shows and seasonal specials were broadcast throughout the world. In the official RCA Records Billboard magazine memorial, his life was summed up in these few words: "50 years of music and a life well lived. An example to all."

He began his career at the New York radio station WHN when he was 17, singing on the Gloom Dodgers show, which provided light entertainment to fans of the Brooklyn Dodgers. He changed his name at the suggestion of a regular on the show, comedian Morey Amsterdam. [5] [4]

Morey Amsterdam American television actor and comedian

Moritz "Morey" Amsterdam was an American television actor and comedian. He was known for the role of Buddy Sorrell on CBS's The Dick Van Dyke Show from 1961 to 1966.

Damone entered the talent search on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts and won in April 1947. This led to his becoming a regular on Godfrey's show. He met Milton Berle at the studio and Berle got him work at two night clubs. By mid-1947, Damone had signed a contract with Mercury Records.

<i>Arthur Godfreys Talent Scouts</i> television series

Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts was an American radio and television variety show which ran on CBS from 1946 until 1958. Sponsored by Lipton Tea, it starred Arthur Godfrey, who was also hosting Arthur Godfrey and His Friends at the same time.

Milton Berle American comedian and actor

Milton Berle was an American comedian and actor. Berle's career as an entertainer spanned over 80 years, first in silent films and on stage as a child actor, then in radio, movies and television. As the host of NBC's Texaco Star Theater (1948–55), he was the first major American television star and was known to millions of viewers as "Uncle Miltie" and "Mr. Television" during the first Golden Age of Television.

Mercury Records record label

Mercury Records is an American record label owned by Universal Music Group. In the United States, it operates through Island Records; in the UK, it is distributed by Virgin EMI Records.

His first release, "I Have But One Heart", reached number seven on the Billboard chart. "You Do" reached the same peak. These were followed by a number of other hits. In 1948, he got his own weekly radio show, Saturday Night Serenade. [3]

He was booked into the Mocambo nightclub on the Sunset Strip in 1949, residing briefly at the Strip's famed Garden of Allah Hotel. [6] In April 1949 he made his television debut on The Morey Amsterdam Show performing Cole Porter's "So in Love". In January 1950 he made his first of several guest appearances on Ed Sullivan's Toast of the Town , including a duet, the first of many, with the vocalist and future TV hostess Dinah Shore. Over the next 30 years he became a regular featured guest performer on every major variety series on network television. Among the programs on which he appeared are All Star Revue , Texaco Star Theatre with Milton Berle, The Arthur Murray Party , What's My Line? , The Jackie Gleason Show , The Steve Allen Show , The Perry Como Show , The Bell Telephone Hour , The Dinah Shore Chevy Show , The Garry Moore Show , I've Got a Secret , The Jack Paar Program , The Red Skelton Show , The Andy Williams Show , The Hollywood Palace , The Dean Martin Show , Hullabaloo , Mickie Finn's , The Danny Thomas Hour , The Jonathan Winters Show , The Carol Burnett Show , Della , The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and several Bob Hope television specials.

In 1951, Damone appeared in two movies, The Strip , where he played himself, and Rich, Young and Pretty . From 1951 to 1953, he served in the United States Army, but before going into the service he recorded a number of songs that were released during that time. He served with future Northwest Indiana radio personality Al Evans and country music star Johnny Cash. After leaving the service, he married the Italian actress Pier Angeli (Anna Maria Pierangeli) in 1954 and made two movies, Deep in My Heart and Athena . In 1955 he played the Caliph in Kismet .

In 1955, Damone had one song on the charts, "Por Favor", which did not make it above number 73. However, he did have major roles in two movie musicals, Hit the Deck and Kismet . In early 1956, he moved from Mercury to Columbia Records, and had some success on that label with hits such as "On the Street Where You Live" (from My Fair Lady , his final pop top 10) and "An Affair to Remember" (from the movie of the same name). His six original albums on Columbia between 1957 and 1961 were That Towering Feeling, Angela Mia, Closer Than a Kiss, This Game of Love, On the Swingin' Side, and Young and Lively.

Damone with composer Harold Arlen and Peggy Lee, 1961 Peggy Lee Harold Arlen Vic Damone 1961.JPG
Damone with composer Harold Arlen and Peggy Lee, 1961

In 1961, he was released by Columbia. Moving over to Capitol Records, he filled the gap left by Frank Sinatra's leaving to help found Reprise Records. He lasted at Capitol only until 1965; however, he recorded some of his most highly regarded albums there, including two which made the Billboard chart, Linger Awhile with Vic Damone and The Lively Ones, the latter with arrangements by Billy May, who also arranged another of Damone's Capitol albums, Strange Enchantment. Other original Capitol albums included My Baby Loves to Swing, The Liveliest, and On the Street Where You Live.

Damone did limited acting on television in the early 1960s. He played Stan Skylar in the 1960 episode "Piano Man" of CBS's The DuPont Show with June Allyson . He was cast as Jess Wilkerson in the 1961 episode "The Proxy" of the ABC Western series The Rebel , starring Nick Adams. He played the crooner Ric Vallone in the 1962 episode "Like a Sister" of the CBS sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show . In the summers of 1962 and 1963, Damone hosted a television variety series on NBC called The Lively Ones, which showcased current jazz, pop, and folk performers, as well as comedians. His group of musical guests over two seasons included Count Basie, Louie Bellson, Dave Brubeck, Chris Connor, Matt Dennis, Frances Faye, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Greco, Woody Herman, Jack Jones, Stan Kenton, Gene Krupa, Peggy Lee, Nellie Lutcher, Shelly Manne, Anita O'Day, Ruth Olay and Oscar Peterson.[ citation needed ]

Damone's other notable television work during this time included three guest appearances from 1963 to 1964 on CBS's The Judy Garland Show . He also guested on UK television, among other programs on The Tommy Cooper Hour Christmas special in 1974. In addition to his solo performances, Garland and he sang duet medleys of songs from Porgy and Bess , West Side Story and Kismet.

In 1964, he sang "Back Home Again in Indiana" before the Indianapolis 500 car race. [7]

In 1965, Damone next moved to Warner Bros. Records with the albums You Were Only Fooling and Country Love Songs. On Warner Bros., he had one top 100 chart hit: "You Were Only Fooling (While I Was Falling In Love)". The next year, he switched record labels again, moving to RCA Victor and releasing the albums Stay with Me, Why Can't I Walk Away, On the South Side of Chicago, and The Damone Type of Thing. In 1967, Damone hosted The Dean Martin Summer Show, which was rerun in 1971. In 1969, he released his last US chart record, a cover of the 1966 song "To Make A Big Man Cry", which made the Billboard Easy Listening chart.

Also in 1965, he appeared on the Firestone album series, Your Favorite Christmas Music, Volume 4, singing "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" and "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas".

Later career

In 1971, Damone started playing Las Vegas casinos as a performer, and although he had to declare bankruptcy in the early 1970s, he earned enough as a casino performer to clear up his financial difficulties. He extended his geographical range, touring through the United States and the United Kingdom, and as a result of his popularity, decided to record some albums again for RCA. In the UK, he appeared on Tommy Cooper's Christmas Special television show in 1974.

In 1972, he was offered the role of Johnny Fontane in The Godfather . The role ultimately went to Al Martino, as Damone turned down the role for a variety of reasons, reportedly including his not thinking the role had enough screen time or paid enough, but also due to a fear of provoking the mob and Frank Sinatra, whom Damone profoundly respected. [8]

Damone appeared in a Diet Pepsi commercial first aired during Super Bowl XXV in January 1991. Damone and other stars, including Jerry Lewis, Tiny Tim, Charo and Bo Jackson, attempt to sing Diet Pepsi's theme song, "You've Got the Right One Baby (Uh-Huh)", which was performed by Ray Charles.

His final album was issued in 2002, with other albums being repackaged and re-released. In 2003, Vic decided to release some previously unreleased material and formed Vintage Records with his son, Perry Damone. He planned to release a 7 CD series called The Vic Damone Signature Collection, and in May 2003 released Volume 1, produced by Perry and Frank Sinclair. In May 2004, Vic released his second CD in the Signature Series, again produced by his Perry and Sinclair, and decided to limit the collection to the two CDs released. He recorded over 2,000 songs over his entire career. He garnered new fans following the 2002 launch of the Vic Damone website, created by Perry and Sinclair, and ultimately managed by his son-in-law William "Bill" Karant.

One of his final public performances was on January 19, 2002, at the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in Palm Beach, Florida. Damone suffered a stroke the same year and subsequently retired. [9] Damone did, however, step out of retirement on January 22, 2011, when he once again performed at the Kravis Performing Arts Center in Palm Beach, to a sold-out crowd. Damone dedicated this performance to his six grandchildren, who had never seen him perform. [10] Damone stated that "I don't need the money ... But, you know, my six grandkids have never seen me on stage. It will be the first time. I will introduce them. It's going to be exciting for me. Before I die, I want them to have heard me perform at least once". [11]

In Brett Ratner's movie Money Talks , Chris Tucker's character sees a commercial about Vic Damone and then pretends to be Damone's son. At the time, Vic's real-life son, Perry, had some laughs about that "15 minutes of fame," and made mention of it on his midday radio show on Phoenix radio station KEZ.

On June 12, 2009, Vic Damone released his autobiography titled Singing Was the Easy Part from St. Martin's Press. In the book, Damone claimed he had been held dangling out of a window of a New York hotel by a "thug". Damone claimed he had been engaged to the thug's daughter, but ended the relationship when she insulted Damone's mother. He wrote that his life was spared when, during a Mafia meeting to determine the singer's fate, New York mob boss Frank Costello ruled in Damone's favor. [4]

In 2010, Damone called Canadian crooner Michael Bublé talented but "cocky" and criticized him for smoking and drinking "straight alcohol" after a show, believing that it would damage his vocal cords. Bublé responded by saying that he knew what he was doing, but promising that from now on he would always mix his alcohol with soda or orange juice. [12]

In December 2, 2011, at the age of 83, Damone launched an official Facebook profile dedicated to his fans. In addition to posting recent photos, Damone wrote that besides spending time with his family, he spends his retirement enjoying golf and football.[ citation needed ]

Personal life

Damone suffered a stroke in 2002 and another health scare in 2008. He recovered from both, and lived until 2018. [9] Damone was married five times and divorced four:

  1. Pier Angeli (1954–1958), actress, singer (one son – Perry Damone, 1955–2014)
  2. Judith Rawlins (1963–1971) (three daughters – Victoria, Andrea and Daniella)
  3. Becky Ann Jones (1974–1982), entertainer
  4. Diahann Carroll (1987–1996), actress, singer
  5. Rena Rowan-Damone (1998–2016), fashion designer, businessperson, philanthropist

Damone had six grandchildren from his daughters (Tate, Paige, Sloane, Rocco, Daniella, Grant).

Damone's first wife, Pier Angeli, was previously in a well-publicized relationship with James Dean, but left him to marry Damone, a move that garnered great media attention. [13] Six years after divorcing Angeli, Damone was arrested on October 15, 1964 on Angeli's charge that he had kidnapped their 9‐year‐old son Perry (named for Perry Como) from New York to Los Angeles. He was released three hours later after having pled "not guilty" to being a fugitive from a kidnapping charge. At the same time, a Santa Monica, California judge awarded him custody of Perry. [14] [15] However, Angeli would ultimately gain custody of Perry and left Hollywood for her native Italy, taking Perry with her. [15] Perry would however return to California after Angeli's death. [16] Perry died of lymphoma aged 59, on December 9, 2014. [17]

He married actress Diahann Carroll in 1987. The union, which Carroll admitted was turbulent, had a legal separation in 1991, reconciliation, and divorce in 1996.

Damone was raised Roman Catholic and served as an altar boy, claiming to have never found deep meaning in his original faith. [9] In the late 1950s, he was introduced to the Bahá'í Faith by a drummer in his band. Damone said his rendition of "On the Street Where You Live" incorporates gestures meant to summon a sustaining vitality from `Abdu'l-Bahá. [15] [18] He officially joined the religion in the early 1960s.

Damone met his Polish-born wife Rena Rowan (born Irena Aurelia Jung on January 4, 1928 in Lida, then part of Poland) in 1996, after she asked him to perform at an event to raise money for her Rowan House charity in Philadelphia, which provides housing for homeless single women with children. [19] Rowan, a breast-cancer survivor, was a clothing distributor who started the "Jones" New York clothing store chain in the mid-1970s.

Damone lived in Palm Beach County, Florida in his later years. In January 2015, Damone and Rena sold their La Casita home, landmarked at 200 Via Bellaria, for $5.75 million. Damone and Rena moved to a smaller residence, a townhouse in the Sloans Curve Drive neighborhood of Palm Beach. [20] She suffered a stroke in 2011. In 2013, Damone was involved in a tug-of-war in a Palm Beach County court with Rowan's two daughters, Nina and Lisa Rowan, for control over the destiny of Rowan and her fortune, which was reportedly worth more than $50 million. The court ultimately sided with Damone, ruling that Rena Rowan was capable of making her own decisions. [21] Rowan died on November 6, 2016 at home in Palm Beach, Florida, from complications of pneumonia. She was 88. [19]

Damone was a personal friend of Donald Trump. In May 2016, Trump offered to be a character witness on Damone's behalf in the event of any legal action his step-daughters might take to prevent him from receiving any of his then ill wife's estate, with an estimated worth of $900 million. [22]

Damone died on February 11, 2018 from complications of respiratory illness at the age of 89. [23]


In 1997, Damone received his high school diploma from Lafayette High School in Brooklyn when officials with the school granted credits for life experience and asked him to give the commencement address - advising students to "Have spiritual guidance. Don't lose God. There is a God. Trust me." [15]

In 1997, Damone received the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame. [24]

Frank Sinatra said that Damone had "the best set of pipes in the business". [24]

For his contribution to the recording industry, Damone has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1731 Vine Street in Los Angeles, California.

In 2014, Damone received the Society for the Preservation of the Great American Songbook's first Legend Award in recognition of those who have made a significant contribution to the genre. [25] [26]

Hit records

YearSingleChart positions
U.S. U.S.
UK [27]
1947"I Have But One Heart"7
"You Do"7
"My Fair Lady"27
"It's Magic"24
"Say Something Sweet to Your Sweetheart"(with Patti Page)23
1949"Again" (gold record)6
"You're Breaking My Heart" (gold record)1
"The Four Winds and the Seven Seas"16
"My Bolero"10
"Why Was I Born?"20
1950"Sitting by the Window"29
"God's Country"27
"Vagabond Shoes"17
"Tzena Tzena Tzena"6
"Just Say I Love Her"13
"Can Anyone Explain"25
"Cincinnati Dancing Pig"11
"My Heart Cries for You"4
"Music by the Angels"18
1951"Tell Me You Love Me"21
"My Truly Truly Fair"4
"Longing for You"12
"Calla Calla"13
1952"Jump Through the Ring"22
"Here in My Heart"8
"Take My Heart"30
"April in Portugal"10
"Ebb Tide"10
"A Village in Peru"30
1954"The Breeze and I"21
"The Sparrow Sings"27
1955"Por Favor"73
1956"On the Street Where You Live"41
"War and Peace"59
1957"Do I Love You"62
"An Affair to Remember"1629
"The Only Man on the Island"24
1962"What Kind of Fool Am I"131
1965"You Were Only Fooling"308
"Why Don't You Believe Me"12725
"Tears (For Souvenirs)"35
1967"On the South Side of Chicago"22
"It Makes No Difference"12
"The Glory of Love"15
1968"Nothing to Lose"40
"Why Can't I Walk Away"21
1969"To Make a Big Man Cry"31

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