- On the Street Where You Live
- War and Peace
- Almost Like Being in Love
- Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (When Your Heart's on Fire)
- Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful
- An Affair to Remember
- You're Breaking My Heart
- Angela Mia (My Angel)
- Separate Tables
- But Beautiful
- My Romance
- The Pleasure of Her Company
- Serenade in Blue
- In the Blue of Evening
16 Most Requested Songs is a midline-priced collection that spotlights many of Vic Damone's best-known and most popular performances for Columbia Records, including "On the Street Where You Live," "War and Peace," "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," "An Affair to Remember," "You're Breaking My Heart," "Gigi," "Separate Tables" and "In the Blue of the Evening." Although it's far from a perfect retrospective of his career, it's still a nice sampler of familiar items, and it may satisfy the needs of some casual fans who only want the hits. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music GuideВ
Vic Damone became in 1950s one of the most successful post-war ballad singers - a performer with consummate artistry, endowed with a voice that was both unusually powerful and naturalistic. Frank Sinatra said of him that he had "the best pipes in the business".
Yet, if he scored high grades among his peers, the public's perception of him was, and to some extente may still be, that of a singer who could be dismissed as a lightweight, a reputable performer with neither the raw personality of a Sinatra or the solid attraction of a Tony Bennett. His enduring career, however, porves them wrong.
He was born Vito Farinola, in Brooklyn, on June 12, 1928, and early on began to display an uncanny talent for singing. His mother, Mamie (whose maiden name he later adopted as his stage monicker), encouraged him and even gave him informal lessons at home. His father, an electrician, hoped his son would follow in his footsteps, and young Vito attended the Alexander Hamilton Vocational High School.
Not surprisingly, his first idol was Sinatra, already a star, who performed before adoring bobby-soxers at the Paramount Theatre in New York, where Vito, then a 17-year-old, was making some pocket money as an usher.
At his mother's urging, he entered Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts program, an amateur talent contest, and won first prize. Milton Berle, who was attending the show, arranged for him to appear at La Martinique, in Manhattan, a venue for many young hopefuls, and Vic became a fixture there for an unprecedented 11 weeks. As a result, he was offered other night-club engagements, his own radio show, "Saturday Night Serenade", which ran on CBS for two years, and a contract with Mercury for which he released his first recording in 1947, "I Have But One Heart (O Marinariello)", a Top 10 hit.
In short order, he recorded several songs, many of them rooted in his Italian tradition, including "Again", "Longing for You", and particularly "You're Breaking My Heart", based on the art song "Mattinata", which hit number one in 1949.
The romantic type par excellence, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood manifested interest in the young man. Surprisingly, Damone never really hit big in the movies, even though he had starring roles in several lavish screen musicals, including "Rich, Young and Pretty" (1951), opposite Jane Powell, "Athena" (1954), with Debbie Reynolds; "Hit the Deck" (1955), in which his co-stars included Tony Martin and Russ Tamblyn; and finally "Kismet" (1955), in which he played the Grand Vizir to Ann Blyth's Marsina. As Roy Hemming and David Hadju remark in their book, "Discovering Great Singers of Classic Pop" (Newmarket Press, 1991), "The camera didn't love him; in fact, it didn't even seem to know him. Damone was simply not gifted with a screen presence to match the power of his singing voice."
When Mitch Miller, who had signed him to Mercury, became head of A&R at Columbia Records, he brought Damone along. Thus started a second phase in the singer's career, marked by a greater diversity in the material he recorded for his new label, and by songs with which he has since been closely identified.
Damone's tenure at Columbia officially began on December 6, 1955, with a session that yielded four songs recorded in Hollywood with Paul Weston and his orchestra. The following February, he was back in the studio, this time in New York, to do a couple of tunes which included a new song, "On the Street Where You Live", from an up-and-coming Broadway show by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, "My Fair Lady". The show, a musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's familiar comedy, "Pygmalion", marked the only time a recording label played patron of the arts and financed a Broadway musical; Columbia obtained the rights to the original cast album, which later on extended to other recordings of the score, including revivals of the show and the film soundtrack.
As was often the case at the time, the label also sought to further exploit its investment by having popular artists under contract record selections from the score, a move that was guaranteed to give the songs and the show itself greater exposure. Damone's rendition of "On the Street Where You Live", with Percy Faith and his orchestra, hit #4 on the charts, where it lodged for six months. It is still remembered today as one of the classic songs of the 1950s.
In July of 1956, Damone returned to the studio, and with David Terry providing the lush background, recorded the theme song from the epic saga, "War and Peace", based on Tolstoy's novel, with Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer as the passionate lovers in Napoleonic Russia.
Up until then, all the songs he had recorded for the label were meant to be released as singles or in four-song EPs. A few days after the "War and Peace" session, he was back in the studio, with producer George Avakian at the helm, and an orchestra under the direction of Camarata, for what would be his first album for the label, "That Towering Feeling", recorded over three days in July, and released on August 13. From these sessions, we selected two songs, "Almost Like Being in Love", which didn't make the album but was eventually released in an album titled, "The Best of Vic Damone", and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes".
Damone returned to the famed Columbia 30th Street Studios in February 1957 to do another single, with Mitch Miller as producer, and Mary Manning conducting the orchestra. Of the four songs recorded at the time, "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful", again charted and became very closely idenfied with him. Once again it was written for a musical, "Cinderella", presented on the CBS Television Network on March 31st of that year, with Julie Andrews in the title role singing the songs of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.
1957 also proved a good year for Damone: on May 20, with Percy Faith and his orchestra, he recorded "An Affair to Remember", the title tune from the film starring Debora Kerr and Cary Grant, which turned into another solid hit for him. In October, with Glenn Osser and his orchestra, he went back to the studio to prepare his next album, "Angela Mia", released on January 13, 1958, and from which we have excerpted the title tune and "You're Breaking My Heart". And in November, again with Percy Faith, he recorded four more sides, including a cover version of "Maria", from "West Side Story", another Broadway show in which Columbia had made a substantial artistic and monetary investment.
By then, Damone's career was in high gear, and 1958 found him very active, both as a nightclub entertainer and as a recording artist. Songs representative of this period and heard in this compilation include "Gigi", the title track from the MGM film musical starring Leslie Caron, recorded as a single on January 28; and "Separate Tables", which was written for a film with a stellar cast headlined by Rita Hayworth, Deborah Kerr, Burt Lancaster and David Niven.
As the decade stretched to a close, however, Damone began to experience personal difficulties. A self-confessed "lousy money manager", he suddenly found himself at odds with some creditors and the IRS, a dual conflict that hadВ profound repercussions on his performing career. As a result, his output in 1959 and 1960 was limited to some singles that went nowhere on the charts, and a couple of albums, "This Game of Love", (reorded on April, 1959 and released the following October, and "On the Swinging Side of the Street", recorded in July, 1960 and released on December 19. His problems notwithstanding, both albums demonstrated that he remained a superb song stylist and balladeer, something that can be heard again here in the two tracks that were selected from the former album, "But Beautiful" and "My Romance".
He scored again in 1961, with what many consider one of the finest albums, "Young and Lively", the product of two sessions with John Williams and his orchestra that were held in July and September of that year. Earlier, in April, they had already joined forces to cut six songs, including "The Pleasure of Her Company", which was composed for a film starring Fred Astaire and Debbie Reynolds.
"Young and Lively" yielted many lovely selections, but none seemed to epitomize Damone's uncanny way with a song more so than the wistful "Serenade in Blue" and "In the Blue of Evening" found here.
The album also signalled the end of his tenure with Columbia. In the years since, despite the onslaught of rock 'n' roll on pop music, and the eventual demise of pop radio, a musical format that had helped make his success, Vic Damone has succeeded in maintaining a high degree of visibility, appearing in lounges and clubs where his brand of singing, smooth and easy, keeps his audiences rapt.
Today, Vic Damone's set of pipes still rank among the best in the business, but with a new-found depth that makes him one of the finest vocalists around.
(Didier C. Deutsch, from the original liner notes)
One of the prototypical Italian-American crooners, Vic Damone parlayed a smooth, mellow baritone into big-time pop stardom during the '40s and '50s. Early in his career, his inflection and phrasing were clearly indebted to Frank Sinatra, who once famously called him "the best set of pipes in the business." Overall, though, Damone's style was softer than Sinatra's and owed less to the elasticity of jazz, especially since he was a solo performer who never served an apprenticeship with a swing orchestra. Very much the heartthrob in his heyday, his repertoire relied heavily on romantic ballads, though he did sprinkle in the occasional pop novelty or Italian folk song. He managed a parallel career as a film actor and, later, a TV variety host, and remained an active nightclub performer for decades after he disappeared from the charts.
Damone was born Vito Rocca Farinola in Brooklyn, NY, on June 12, 1928. His mother was a piano teacher and his father an electrician who also sang and played guitar, but it was Sinatra who provided his first musical awakening, and inspired him to start voice lessons. His first performances came in a youth choir and at school events. When his father was seriously injured in a work accident, young Vic was forced to drop out of school to help support the family, and got a job at the Paramount Theater in Manhattan as an usher and elevator operator. One night, while taking Perry Como up to his dressing room, Vic gave an impromptu performance and asked the singer if he had any talent; Como encouraged him, referred him to a local bandleader, and became something of a mentor to him.
Adopting his mother's maiden name, Damone won first place on the Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts show in 1947, which led to regular professional gigs on local radio. While on the set of the show, he also met Milton Berle, who helped him get gigs at the prominent nightclubs La Martinique and the Aquarium. All the attention landed the 19-year-old Damone a record deal with Mercury in fairly short order. His debut single, "I Have But One Heart," sold well, and the follow-ups, "You Do" and the Patti Page duet "Say Something Sweet to Your Sweetheart," were also successful. He began hosting his own radio show, Saturday Night Serenade, and played big New York venues like the Copa and the Paramount (where he'd once worked).
Damone scored his first runaway smash in 1949 with "Again," and followed it with the similarly successful "You're Breaking My Heart"; both singles sold over a million copies. A steady stream of new releases followed through 1950, with the biggest including "Vagabond Shoes," the Top Ten "Tzena, Tzena, Tzena" (a cover of the Weavers' adaptation of an Israeli folk song), "Cincinnati Dancing Pig," and the Top Five "My Heart Cries for You." The following year, he signed a film contract with MGM and appeared in two movies, The Strip and the musical Rich, Young and Pretty. He also returned to the Top Five with a version of Guy Mitchell's "My Truly, Truly Fair." However, he was drafted into the military late that year, and served through 1953. Mercury continued to issue previously recorded material during Damone's tour of duty, and in that time, he hit the Top Ten with "Here in My Heart" (a cover of Al Martino's debut smash), Les Baxter's "April in Portugal," and "Ebb Tide"; he also found some success with the Charlie Chaplin-penned "Eternally."
When Damone returned from the military, he resumed his film career and married actress Pier Angeli; over the next two years, he appeared in the likes of Athena, Deep in My Heart, Kismet, and Hit the Deck, as well as guesting on Berle's TV show. However, his run of hit singles was coasting to a stop, and when Mercury dropped him, he followed his former A&R man Mitch Miller to Columbia. In 1956, Damone overcame the advent of rock & roll to score a number four pop hit with the My Fair Lady tune "On the Street Where You Live." That year, he also issued his first proper 12" LP, That Towering Feeling!, which reached the Top 20 (all his previous LPs had been 10"s or movie soundtracks). Outside of the musical arena, Damone appeared in another film, Meet Me in Las Vegas, and landed the first of what would prove to be several variety-show hosting gigs; this initial TV series, The Vic Damone Show, lasted from 1956-1957. Unfortunately, his marriage to Angeli broke up in 1958.
Damone was initially able to dodge the rock & roll bullet, but his career momentum soon ground to a near-halt. He had only one more Top 20 single, 1957's "An Affair to Remember (Our Love Affair)," and he was slowly forced to try reinventing himself as an album artist and an interpretive singer for adult audiences. The consistency of his albums did improve, with the most notable result being 1961's On the Swingin' Side, but Columbia let Damone move over to Capitol afterward. Hoping that Damone could ease some of the sting of losing Sinatra, Capitol coaxed some of the singer's strongest LPs out of him, including 1962's romantic Linger Awhile With Vic Damone and The Lively Ones. Both charted in the Top 100, but failed to win the audience of, for example, latter-day Sinatra. Damone moved on to Warner Brothers for a one-off album, You Were Only Fooling, in 1965; its title cut gave Damone a last hurrah on the singles charts.
Damone next moved on to RCA and made a few recordings in the late '60s, but by this time he was primarily a TV personality and frequent variety-show guest. He staged a major concert in Las Vegas in 1971, where he became a regular on the casino circuit; this helped him iron out some financial problems that resulted in a brief period of bankruptcy in the early '70s. Damone subsequently enjoyed a steady career touring nightclubs and casinos around the country, and experienced something of a renaissance in the U.K. during the early '80s. He capitalized with extensive touring there, and also cut a few new albums for RCA during the first half of the decade. In 1987, he married actress Diahann Carroll (his fourth wife), which lasted until 1996. In addition to his live performances, he continued to record occasionally as well. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi