Vic Damone 1928–2018
The velvet-voiced crooner who wowed Frank Sinatra
Vic Damone’s silky baritone and screen-idol good looks made him one of the most successful romantic crooners of the postwar era. He sold millions of records, scoring hits in the 1940s and ’50s with songs including “Again,” “On the Street Where You Live,” and “Gigi,” and made dozens of movie and TV appearances. Yet Damone never became a pop music institution like some other crooners, perhaps because he didn’t have Frank Sinatra’s rugged soulfulness or Tony Bennett’s range. His peers, though, always envied the way Damone’s meticulous, velvety vocals emotionally connected him with an audience. “Vic,” Sinatra once said, “has the best pipes in the business.”
Growing up in Brooklyn, Damone “loved singing and was spellbound by Sinatra,” said The New York Times. When his electrician father was disabled on the job, Damone dropped out of school at 14 and became an usher at Manhattan’s Paramount Theatre. Encountering singer Perry Como there in an elevator, “he performed a spontaneous audition for him and asked for an evaluation.” Como told him to “keep singing” and suggested he contact a local bandleader.
Damone notched his first hit in 1948 with “Again,” said The Daily Telegraph (U.K.), and made a series of lighthearted musical films in the 1950s, including Rich, Young and Pretty, Hit the Deck, and Kismet. But his pop career “was steamrollered in the 1960s by the ‘British invasion’ led by the Beatles.” Damone spent the next four decades performing at packed nightclubs and concert halls, saying he was happy to focus on entertaining audiences with his voice. “I was not given a special talent as a show person,” he said in 2009. “My gift was singing.”