Dame Vera Margaret Lynn (Vera Margaret Welch, 20 March 1917) widely known as "the Forces' Sweetheart", is an English singer, songwriter and actress. Her musical recordings and performances were enormously popular during the Second World War.
During the war she toured Egypt, India, and Burma (Myanmar) as part of ENSA, giving outdoor concerts for the troops. The songs most associated with her are "We'll Meet Again", "The White Cliffs of Dover", "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" and "There'll Always Be an England".
She remained popular after the war, appearing on radio and television in the UK and the US and recording such hits as "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart" and her UK Number one single "My Son, My Son". Her last single, "I Love This Land", was released to mark the end of the Falklands War. In 2009, at age 92, she became the oldest living artist to top the UK Albums Chart.
She has devoted much time and energy to charity work connected with ex-servicemen, disabled children, and breast cancer. She is held in great affection by veterans of the Second World War to this day and in 2000 was named the Briton who best exemplified the spirit of the 20th century.
On 20th March, 2017 Dame Vera celebrated her 100th birthday.
Vera Margaret Welch was born in East Ham, London. She began performing publicly at the age of seven and adopted her maternal grandmother's maiden name, Margaret Lynn, as her stage name when she was eleven. Her first radio broadcast, with the Joe Loss Orchestra, was in 1935. At this point she was being featured on records released by dance bands including those of Loss and of Charlie Kunz.
Vera Lynn made her solo recording debut with the song "The General's Fast Asleep" on the 3rd October 1935, accompanied by the Rhythm Rascals (A pseudonym for Jay Wilbur's orchestra). The 9" 78 rpm single was issued on the Crown Records label, which went on to release a total of 8 singles recorded by Vera Lynn and Charles Smart on organ. Early recordings include "I'm in the Mood for Love" and "Red Sails in the Sunset".
In 1938 the Decca label took over control of the British Crown label and the UK based Rex label, they had also issued early singles from Lynn in 1937, including "Harbour Lights". In late September 1939 Vera Lynn first recorded a song that continues to be associated with her: "We'll Meet Again" was originally recorded with Arthur Young on the Novachord.
In 1940 she began her own radio series, "Sincerely Yours", sending messages to British troops stationed abroad. In this radio show she and a quartet performed the songs most requested to her by soldiers stationed abroad. She also went into hospitals to interview new mothers and send messages to their husbands overseas. She toured Burma and gave outdoor concerts for soldiers.
In 1941 Vera Lynn married Harry Lewis, clarinettist, saxophonist and fellow member of Bert Ambrose's orchestra.
In 1942 she recorded the Ross Parker/Hughie Charles song "We'll Meet Again" while making the film of the same name. The nostalgic lyrics ("We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when, but I know we'll meet again some sunny day") had a great appeal to the many people separated from loved ones during the war, and it became one of the emblematic songs of the wartime period.
After the war, her "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart" became the first record by a British artist to top the US charts, doing so for nine weeks, and she appeared regularly on Tallulah Bankhead's US radio programme "The Big Show". "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart", along with "The Homing Waltz" and "Forget-Me-Not" gave Lynn a remarkable three entries on the first UK Singles Chart, a top 12 (which contained 15 songs owing to tied positions).
Lynn's career flourished in the 1950s, peaking with "My Son, My Son", a number-one hit in 1954. It was co-written by Eddie Calvert.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s the Decca label issued all of Lynn's records, including several recorded with Mantovani and His Orchestra in 1942 and with Robert Farnon, from the late 1940s. Firstly they were only available as 78 rpm singles, which only feature two songs an A and a B-side. In the mid-1950s Decca issued several EP singles, which featured between two and four recordings per side, such as Vera Lynn's Party Sing Song from 1954 and singles were issued on two formats the known 78 rpm 10" and the recently introduced 45 rpm 7" single. In the late 1950s Lynn recorded four albums at Decca, the first; Vera Lynn Concert remains her only live recording ever to be issued on vinyl.
In 1960, after more than 20 years at Decca Records, Lynn signed to the US based MGM Records. In the UK her recordings were distributed by the His Masters Voice label, later EMI Records. Several albums and stand-alone singles were recorded with Geoff Love & His Orchestra. Norman Newell also took over as Lynn's producer in this period and remained with her until her 1976 album Christmas with Vera Lynn. Recording at EMI Records up until 1977, Lynn released thirteen albums with material as diverse as traditional Hymns, pop and country songs, as well as re-recording many of her known songs from the 1940s for the albums Hits of the Blitz (1962), More Hits of the Blitz and Vera Lynn Remembers – The World at War (1974). In the 1980s two albums of contemporary pop songs were recorded at the Pye Records label, both including covers of songs previously recorded by artists such as ABBA and Barry Manilow.
In 1982 Lynn released the stand-alone single "I Love This Land", written by André Previn, to mark the end of the Falklands War. Lynn's last recordings before her retirement were issued on the 1984 album Vera Lynn Remembers, produced by her husband, Harry. The album featured 17 re-recordings of songs known and associated with Lynn over her career.
Lynn was awarded the British War Medal 1939–1945 and the Burma Star.
She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1969 New Year Honours "for services to the Royal Air Forces Association and other charities", and was advanced to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 1975 Birthday Honours for charitable services.
In 1976 she received an honorary doctorate from the Memorial University of Newfoundland. In 1977 She was made an honorary citizen of Nashville, Tennessee. She received the Freedom of the City of London in 1978.
She was made a Commander of the Order of Orange-Nassau in 1985. She was made an Officer of the Order of Saint John (OStJ) in 1998 and, in 2000, Lynn received a special "Spirit of the 20th Century" Award.
A street named in her honour, Vera Lynn Close, is situated in Forest Gate, London.
She was appointed Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) in the 2016 Birthday Honours for services to entertainment and charity.
A preserved example of the WD Austerity 2-10-0 class of steam locomotives at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway is named Dame Vera Lynn.
"We'll Meet Again" is a 1939 British song made famous by singer Vera Lynn with music and lyrics composed and written by Ross Parker and Hughie Charles.
The song is one of the most famous songs of the Second World War era, and resonated with soldiers going off to fight and their families and sweethearts. The assertion that "we'll meet again" is optimistic, as many soldiers did not survive to see their loved ones again.
The song gave its name to the 1943 musical film We'll Meet Again in which Dame Vera Lynn played the lead role. Lynn's recording is featured in the final scene of Stanley Kubrick's 1964 film Dr. Strangelove, and was also used in the closing scenes of the 1986 BBC television serial The Singing Detective. British director John Schlesinger used the song in his 1979 World War II film, Yanks, which is about British citizens and American soldiers during the military buildup in the UK as the Allies prepared for the D-Day Invasion.
During the Cold War, Lynn's recording was included in the package of music and programmes held in 20 underground radio stations of the BBC's Wartime Broadcasting Service (WTBS), designed to provide public information and morale-boosting broadcasts for 100 days after a nuclear attack. Lynn sang the song in London on the 60th Anniversary of VE Day in 2005.
Traditionally, this song is played on May 5 as a closure to the Liberation Day Concert in Amsterdam, to mark the end of World War II in the Netherlands, as the monarch leaves the concert on a canal boat.
Benny Goodman recorded the song with Peggy Lee in 1942.
The Ink Spots recorded the song in 1943
The Byrds recorded the song as the closing track of their debut album Mr. Tambourine Man in 1965, inspired by the song's use in the film Dr. Strangelove.
In 1966 the Turtles performed it on the Lloyd Thaxton show, a Los Angeles teen dance show.
In 1972, P. J. Proby recorded a power-ballad rendition of the song. It was released by the EMI Group as Proby's last single of his recording contract.
Jim Capaldi recorded a brief selection of the song in 1974, which appears as a hidden track on his album Whale Meat Again.
Rod Stewart and the Faces would sing an a cappella version of the song as the closer to most of their concerts between 1971 and 1974.
Barry Manilow recorded this song on his Barry Live in Britain album.
Joe Henry recorded the song on his 1999 album Fuse.
Johnny Cash recorded this song on his 2002 album American IV: The Man Comes Around (it was the closing track of the album, which was the final album released during his lifetime). This version is used in the beginning of the 2010 remake of The Crazies. After Cash's death in the fall of 2003, family and friends performed "We'll Meet Again" at the conclusion of a TV special celebrating the singer's life.
Mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins reprised the song at her appearance alongside Lynn in London on the 60th Anniversary of VE Day in 2005, and has retained it as an occasional item in her repertoire.
The song was played on the closing night of the Willow disco in York.
American celtic rock band Dropkick Murphys recorded the song on their 2017 album 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory.
In film and television
In the 1955 British film The Ship That Died of Shame, sung by then-famous singer, Yana, in a scene set in the fictional "Coastal Forces Club".
In the 1964 movie Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, the song closes out the final scenes while showing a montage of atomic explosions.
Used in movie The Hit by Stephen Frears.
The Kinks reference the song and performer in "Mr. Churchill Says" which appeared on their 1969 album Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) in context to The Blitz.
In The Muppets Go to the Movies, The Muppets, Dudley Moore and Lily Tomlin sing the song at the end.
The song plays as part of the music loop of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attractions at numerous Disney parks.
The song appears on the first episode of the documentary The Beatles Anthology, during the footage of The Beatles members when they were children.
In The Simpsons episode "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming", Sideshow Bob whistles the song as he sets up a Cold War-era nuclear bomb in a US airbase. The song is also used at the end of the episode "At Long Last Leave".
The final scene of the last episode of the 1997 animated superhero comedy Freakazoid features the cast singing this song at the Hollywood Bowl.
A part of the song plays at the end of the Futurama episode "A Big Piece of Garbage", when the credits are being shown.
In the movie Hellboy, during Professor Broom's confrontation with Rasputin, a recording of the song plays in the background (according to the closed-captioning).
Jim Keats sings the song in the series finale of Ashes to Ashes.
Early in the movie The Ides of March, Bob Mervak is briefly shown singing the song at Cliff Bell’s, a Detroit jazz club.
Franka Potente sings this song in The Sinking of the Laconia.
Episode 4 of the fifth season of True Blood is entitled "We'll Meet Again". A cover of the song plays during the end credits.
In the week of "The Rovers Return Inn" fire on Coronation Street in 2013, Rita Sullivan, Dennis Tanner and Emily Bishop sing this song before the fire breaks out next episode.
In the underground series Salad Fingers, created by animator David Firth, the song is referenced at the end of the seventh episode entitled, "Shore Leave."
The movie Second World War uses the song We'll Meet Again sung by actress Evelyn Rei. Footballer Chris Todd plays the role of Thomas and singer Keedie Green set to star in the film
Episode 9 of the sixth season of Castle, titled "Disciple", He plays the song at the end of the episode as a way of saying that 3XK (Jerry Tyson) has returned. The theme returns in episode 14 of season 7, "Resurrection", prefiguring the actions of the return of 3XK and Dr. Kelly Nieman
My Morning Jacket plays "We'll Meet Again" from their speakers at the end of shows as their fans depart.
In the television show Midsomer Murders, actress June Whitfield sings the song as her character Peggy Alder.
In the Round the Twist episode Radio Da Da, the song is played every time Pete and Linda get transported to World War II (where the song was released at the time) through an old radio given by Nell.
On the final episode of The Colbert Report, the song was sung by Stephen Colbert in a more upbeat tempo with members of his family and an assembled crowd of many of his most prominent guests.
The song was sung by Alfie Boe and Katherine Jenkins during the final performance at VE Day 70: A Party to Remember at Horse Guards Parade in London in 2015.
A segment of the song is sung by Bill Cipher in the Gravity Falls series finale, "Weirdmageddon 3: Take Back the Falls".
The song plays in the background while the protagonists share a toast in "Fail-Safe," the fifth episode of Legends of Tomorrow.
A section of the song plays in the 2017 movie Kong: Skull Island. Near the end of the movie.
References in other works
Pink Floyd makes reference to this song and the performer in "Vera", a song from their album The Wall: "Does anybody here remember Vera Lynn?/Remember how she said that we would meet again some sunny day?". A short clip of "We'll Meet Again" can also be heard at the beginning of the first track on the Pink Floyd album Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall Live 1980–81.
On her last radio show, NPR host Liane Hansen quoted the song in her farewell address to listeners.
Snowing references it in their song "I think We're in Minsk". "Play Vera Lynn at my funeral, though I don't think we will meet again. I'm not morbid. I'm just forgetful and I think it'd be a funny way to end."
The fifty-fifth issue of the Mega Man comic series from Archie Comics, which was the last issue before the series went on a hiatus of indeterminate length, featured characters from various branches of the Mega Man franchise joining together in singing "We'll Meet Again."
We'll meet again,
Don't know where, don't know when,
But I know we'll meet again, some sunny day.
Keep smiling through,
Just like you always do,
Till the blue skies drive the dark clouds, far away.
So will you please say hello,
To the folks that I know,
Tell them I won't be long,
They'll be happy to know that as you saw me go
I was singing this song.
We'll meet again,
Don't know where, don't know when,
But I know we'll meet again, some sunny day.