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Vic Damone obituary

Vic Damone in the 1940s.
Vic Damone in the 1940s. Photograph: Library Of Congress/AFP/Getty Images

Sixty years ago, the ballad singer Vic Damone topped the UK charts with On the Street Where You Live. It was an unlikely achievement in the middle of the rock’n’roll era, but it was a perfect song perfectly sung. Damone, who has died aged 89, was regarded as a singer’s singer. Frank Sinatra applauded his technique, saying that he had “the best pair of pipes in the business”.

For all the straightforward faultlessness of his romantic singing, Damone led a complicated life, involving tax evasion, gambling debts and links to the mafia. On one occasion, when he broke off his engagement to a mobster’s daughter, he recalled, he was dangled from a hotel window. Not without irony, he titled his autobiography Singing Was the Easy Part (2009).

Although Damone was offered the role of the singer Johnny Fontane, whose career is helped by the mafia, in the film The Godfather (1972), Sinatra persuaded him to turn it down, feeling that the film revealed too much about the mob’s practices. Al Martino took the role instead, and he sang Damone’s hit I Have But One Heart in the film.

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 hospitalised 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.