Vic Damone, the postwar crooner whose intimate, rhapsodic voice captivated bobby soxers, middle-age dreamers and silver-haired romantics in a five-decade medley of America's love songs and popular standards, died Sunday in Miami Beach, Florida. He was 89.
Ed Henry, a family friend, said the cause was complications of respiratory failure.
Damone suffered a mild stroke in 2000 but recovered and retired in 2001 after a farewell tour that included appearances at the Hollywood Bowl and Carnegie Hall. He came out of retirement a decade later to give one last performance in Palm Beach, Florida, where he lived.
For anyone old enough to remember the age of phonograph records, the velvet baritone of Damone was an unforgettable groove in a soundtrack that also included Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and Tony Bennett.
Many critics and colleagues said Damone had the best natural gifts in the business: a voice and style that made emotional connections with an audience, especially in nightclubs, with sensitive renditions of songs like "In the Still of the Night," "You'd Be So Easy to Love," "I Don't Want to Walk Without You" and "Come Rain or Come Shine."
After winning on the radio show "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts" in 1947, he recorded some 2,500 songs over 54 years. He had his own radio and television programs, made movies and became a mainstay of the Las Vegas Strip, and nightclubs where audiences were so close he could almost reach out and touch them with his voice
Along the way, he made millions, entertained presidents and royalty, refused a part in "The Godfather," married five times, had four children and underwent analysis.
He also survived a brush with the mob, four divorces, a custody fight over his only son and the suicides of two former wives. And he was still working as the millennium turned, with a voice that critics said had not lost its mellow subtleties.
"Vic Damone is the kind of performer who comes along once in a lifetime," Alex Dreyfoos, chairman of the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, told the crowd at one of his last performances. "Fortunately, he came along in our lifetime."