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Vic Damone, the legendary crooner admired by Sinatra, dead at 89

Hartford Courant 2018-02-12 18:10:00

Vic Damone, the enduring postwar lounge singer whose mellow baritone once earned praise from Frank Sinatra as "the best pipes in the business," has died in Florida at the age of 89.

Damone died Sunday at a Miami Beach hospital from complications of a respiratory illness, his daughter Victoria Damone said.

His easy-listening romantic ballads brought him million-selling records and sustained a half-century career in recordings, movies and nightclub, concert and television appearances.

After Damone won a tie on the radio show "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Hunt," his career began climbing. His hit singles included "Again," ''You're Breaking My Heart," ''My Heart Cries for You," ''On the Street Where You Live" and, in 1957, the title song of the Cary Grant film "An Affair to Remember."

Damone's style as a lounge singer remained constant through the years: straightforward, concentrated on melody and lyrics without resorting to vocal gimmicks. Like many young singers of his era, his idol was Sinatra.

"I tried to mimic him," Damone said in a 1992 interview with Newsday. "I decided that if I could sound like Frank maybe I did have a chance. I was singing his words, breathing his breaths, [doing] his interpretation, with the high notes, the synergy."

Scott Stetzer / Associated Press Vic Damone and actress Diahann Carroll show off their rings after wedding in Atlantic City, N,J., in 1987. The two later divorced. Vic Damone and actress Diahann Carroll show off their rings after wedding in Atlantic City, N,J., in 1987. The two later divorced. (Scott Stetzer / Associated Press)

Sinatra and Damone, along with Tony Bennett, Perry Como, Dean Martin and others — made up a group of Italian Americans who dominated the postwar pop music field.

Far from resenting the mimicry, Sinatra praised Damone's singing ability.

Damone still drew crowds in nightclubs and concerts into his 70s, before illness prompted his retirement to Palm Beach with his fifth wife, fashion designer Rena Rowan.

Damone appeared in several MGM musicals and he was originally cast in "The Godfather," but the role of a budding singer seeking mob help in a Hollywood career eventually went to Al Martino.

He wrote in his memoir, "Singing Was the Easy Part," that he never considered himself a showman like Milton Berle or Sammy Davis Jr.

"That wasn't my particular gift," he wrote. "My gift was singing."

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