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Vic Damone was born Vito Rocco Farinola in Brooklyn, New York to French-Italian immigrants based in Caserta, Italy—Rocco and Mary (Damone) Farinola. His father was an electrician and volunteer firefighter; his mother taught piano. Inspired by his favorite singer, Frank Sinatra, Damone began taking voice lessons. He sang in a choir at St. Finbar's Church in Bath Beach, Brooklyn for Sunday Mass under organist Anthony Amorello. When his father was injured at work, Damone had to drop out of high school. He worked as an usher and elevator operator in the Paramount Theater, in Manhattan. He met Perry Como, who asked him into his dressing room to sing for him. Impressed, Como referred him to a local bandleader. Farinola decided to call himself Vic Damone, using his mother's maiden name.
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 nightclubs. By mid 1947, Damone had signed a contract with Mercury Records.
His first release, "I Have But One Heart", reached #7 on the Billboard chart. "You Do" (released November 1) 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.
In 1951, Damone appeared in two movies: The Strip 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, which were released during that time. He served with future Northwest Indiana radio personality Al Evans, and also country music star Johnny Cash. After leaving the service, he married the Italian actress Pier Angeli (Anna Maria Pierangeli), and in 1954 made two more movies: Deep in My Heart and Athena. He also made some guest appearances on Milton Berle's television show in 1954.
In 1955, Damone had only one song on the charts, "Por Favor," which did not make it above #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 like "On the Street Where You Live" (from My Fair Lady, his final pop top ten) and "An Affair to Remember" (from the movie of the same name). His six original, long-playing 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.
In 1961, he was released by Columbia, moving over to Capitol Records, where he filled in 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.
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 distinguished 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, Oscar Peterson, Andre Previn, Della Reese, Shorty Rogers, Cal Tjader, and Joe Williams.
Other notable television work during this time included Damone's three guest appearances on Judy Garland's CBS variety series The Judy Garland Show (1963–64). In addition to his solo performances on these three episodes, Damone and Garland 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.
In 1965 Damone moved next to Warner Bros. Records, releasing the albums You Were Only Fooling and Country Love Songs. On Warners he had one chart hit: "You Were Only Fooling (While I Was Falling In Love)." The next year he moved again, to RCA Victor Records, 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 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.
In 1971, Damone started touring 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, releasing them on the RCA label.
His final album was issued in 2002, with other albums being re-packaged and re-released. He has recorded over 2,000 songs over his entire career.
He has garnered new fans following the launch of the Vic Damone website in 2002 www.vicdamone.com.
One of his final performances was on January 19, 2002 at the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, Florida. Damone did however step out of retirement on January 22, 2011, when he performed at Kravis Performing Arts Center in Palm Beach, Florida.
In Brett Ratner's 1997 movie Money Talks, Chris Tucker's character sees a commercial about Vic Damone and then pretends to be Damone's son.
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."
In 1997, Damone received the "Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award" from the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Frank Sinatra said that Damone had "the best set of pipes in the business".
For his contribution to the recording industry, Vic Damone has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1731 Vine Street in Los Angeles, California.
On June 12, 2009, Vic Damone released his autobiography titled Singing Was the Easy Part from St. Martin's Press.
Damone has married five times and divorced four:
1) The Italian actress Anna Maria Pierangeli (Pier Angeli) (1954–1958) (one son - Perry Damone)
2) Judith Rawlins (1963–1971) (three daughters - Victoria Damone-Cooper, Andrea Damone-Kellogg, Daniella Damone-Woodard)
3) Becky Ann Jones (1974–1982), the American entertainer
4) Diahann Carroll (1987–1996) (This relationship is referenced in the 1997 film Money Talks, in which Chris Tucker's character claims to be Vic Damone Jr., the son of Damone and Carroll)
5) Rena Rowan (1998 to date), the fashion designer and co-creator of Jones New York (Jones Apparel Group). Damone has 6 grandchildren from his daughters.
Official Website: http://www.vicdamone.com/