Damone, Vic

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Damone, Vic

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  • Vito Rocco Fainola

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Dates of existence

1928-2018

History

He was born Vito Rocco Farinola in Brooklyn, New York, one of five children, and the only son, of Mamie (nee Damone) and Rocco Farinola, who lived in Bensonhurst, a predominantly Italian neighbourhood. When Mamie was hospitalized with pneumonia in 1931, Rocco taught his son to sing "You’re Driving Me Crazy" at her bedside. Although Rocco expected Vito to follow him in becoming an electrician, the young boy was more interested in his mother’s skills as a pianist.
Vito attended Lafayette high school in Brooklyn and also worked delivering groceries from the age of 12. On leaving school, he became an usher at the Paramount theatre in New York. When the up-and-coming Perry Como performed at the Paramount, Vito stopped the lift between floors and asked Como to hear his voice. Como told him to stick with it, so he took his mother’s maiden name to attempt a singing career as Vic Damone.
In 1946 Damone had success on a radio talent show hosted by Arthur Godfrey. He had his first US hit the following year, with I Have But One Heart, which he sang in Italian and English, and he followed it with "Say Something Sweet to Your Sweetheart," a duet with Patti Page. He released a couple more hit songs, topping the charts in 1949. In 1951, Damone appeared in the film musicals Rich, Young and Pretty with Jane Powell and The Strip with Mickey Rooney and Louis Armstrong. He served for two years in the US army during the Korean war, entertaining the troops in Germany and appearing on the forces’ station AFN. In 1955 Damone co-starred in the lavish Hollywood musicals Hit the Deck and Kismet. The next year he recorded On the Street Where You Live, a song from the new Broadway success, My Fair Lady. His beautifully controlled vocal resulted in a US Top 10 hit and he also released a successful album, That Towering Feeling!, inspired by the song.
Damone had a stroke in 2000 but recovered sufficiently to undertake a farewell tour which included Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl. He retired to Miami and his final performance was at West Palm Beach in 2011.
He was divorced four times. His fifth wife, Rena Rowan, whom he married in 1998, died in 2016.

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Sources

Spencer Leigh, 2018. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/feb/13/vic-damone-obituary.

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