Sweetheart of the Forces : Vera Lynn©2004JCMarion


Vera Lynn was born Vera Margaret Welch in London in 1917. By the mid nineteen twenties she was performing as a child vocalist in London area clubs and then became a member of a traveling dance troupe with which she was a featured act until her mid teens. It was then she concentrated on her vocal talents and by the mid nineteen thirties she was a featured vocalist with the orchestra of Joe Loss. For the remainder of the decade she made many appearances on British radio with the bands of Loss and Ambrose. While with the orchestra of Ambrose, she met and soon married band member Harry Lewis who soon also became her manager. She became a solo performer soon after the start of World War II and had a very popular radio program called "Sincerely Yours". Introduced by her vocal on her theme song "Wishing", the show made her the Sweetheart of the British Armed Forces. Favorite songs that were remembered included "Yours", "White Cliffs Of Dover", and "We'll Meet Again". At this time Vera Lynn, who was now recognized as the number one female vocalist in Great Britain, also appeared in a number of wartime films. These were "We'll Meet Again", "Rhythm Serenade", and "One Exciting Night" between 1942 and 1944. She then did USO type tours entertaining British troops in the Far East. Once the war ended Vera Lynn went into retirement for a time.

In 1947 she returned to the stage in England and also had her own show on the BBC. At this time an event took place in the United States that propelled Lynn's recording career on both sides of the Atlantic. There was a recording strike by the American Federation of Musicians which left the field wide open for foreign recordings to be imported into the U.S. which is just what her label, Decca Records (UK) did with her recording of "You Can't Be True Dear" and "Once Upon A Wintertime" on #202 with the orchestra of Bob Farndon the musical director of her BBC radio show. The record was a top ten seller in the spring of 1948. In early 1949 her recording of "Again" with the orchestra of Bruce Campbell (# 310) was a top twenty five seller in the U.S. (the flip side was "Lavender Blue"). Such London recordings as "Your Mom's Like Mine" (# 480) "Speak Words Of Love" / "This Is Love" (# 584) and "How Can I Leave You" / "So Goes My Heart" (# 938) were not successful in the U.S. but in the spring and summer of 1952 Vera Lynn recorded "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart" on London #1227. The record was an enormous seller in England and the United States. In remained the number one seller on the American charts for an amazing nine consecutive weeks and on the best seller lists for more than five months. The record was a simultaneous number one in both the U.S. and the U. K. which was a first for a British artist and went on to sell close to three million copies. "By The Fireside" on # 1233, and "When The Swallows Say Goodbye" and "The Homecoming Queen" on # 1249 did not do well but later on in the same year, Lynn's 1941 recording of "Yours" (London # 1261) was re-recorded and released in the United States and went on to become another million seller. It reached into the top ten and was a three month best seller. The Spanish song originally called "Quierme Mucho", was featured in the movie "Orchestra Wives" back in 1941. Also featured on the recording (as on "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart") were massed voices of the Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the British Armed Forces (Her Majesty's Forces) on the second chorus. It was followed by "Forget Me Not" and "What A Day We'll Have" on # 1265 and "I'll Always Love You" and "No More" on # 1298

"I Lived When I Met You" and "Waiting For You" on # 1302 and "I'll Wait For You" and "My Love My Life" on # 1317 were not top sellers, but early in 1954 Vera Lynn scored again with a re-release of a wartime recording with the voices of the British Armed Forces with "We'll Meet Again" on London #1348. "Don't Leave Me Now" and "You Won't Forget" on London # 1382 followed, and later in the year "If You Love Me, Really Love Me" (#1412) was a top twenty seller, "The Greatest Love Of All" on #1475 and "Now And Forever" / "Try Again on # 1489 followed, and at year's end "My Son, My Son" (# 1501) was a top thirty seller in the United States, but a big number one seller in Great Britain. During this time Lynn had a leading role in the long running revue "London Laughs", and did radio appearances both in England and America. Most noteworthy were her guesting on "The Big Show", an all star attempt by radio to head off the coming of television in American homes. The show was hosted by Tallulah Bankhead and featured all star lineups in music and comedy. By the mid and late 1950s, musical-variety revues on stage had run their course and Lynn concentrated on television while the recordings continued. "Don't Cry My Love" / "Addio Amore" with The Johnston Brothers ( who had two American hits for London in 1954) on #1550, "What Have They Told You" (# 1596), "Such A Day" / "Unfaithful You" (# 1642), "Don't Cry My Love" / "By The Fountains Of Rome" (# 1729), "If I Were You" (# 1752), "I Would Love You Still" (# 1774), "76 Trombones" / "Another Time Another Place" (# 1793), "The Window" (# 1845) and "Have I Told You Lately" (# 1870). Vera Lynn also recorded a number of LP albums, some originals and others compilations of past records during the late fifties and into the nineteen sixties. Some of these were "Grand Gala" (one of the earliest for Decca), "Among My Souvenirs", "As Time Goes By", "From The Time You Say Goodby", "Hits Of The Blitz", and "Greatest Hits".

Through the 60s Vera Lynn recorded in a more contemporary style after ending her twenty year association with Decca Records and switching to EMI in 1960. Some of the songs she recorded were "By The Time I Get To Phoenix", "Fool On The Hill", and "Sunny". In the late 1960s she had her own television show for a time, but health problems curtailed her performance schedule and limited her appearances to specials and reunion events. In 1970 she received the OBE (Order of the British Empire), and in 1976 was named Dame of the British Empire. In the nineteen eighties she was part of the performers at the 40th anniversary of D-Day and the 50th anniversary of the start of World War II. The last original albums appeared into the late nineteen eighties and included "Vera Lynn In Nashville", "Singing To The World", and "In Concert" from 1984. In 1994 Vera Lynn appeared with Bob Hope on the QE 2 in Cherbourg Harbor in France for the 50th Anniversary of D-Day celebration.

Today there are many CDs that showcase the talent of Vera Lynn. A perfect starting point is the CD "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart" for ASV Living Era released in 2003. It is a true greatest hits collection spanning Lynn's career from the thirties to the mid fifties. Others may have some duplication in the song selection, so the tracks should be checked for this. Some of the best CDs available are : "It's A Lovely Day Tomorrow" from Pearl in 1994, "We'll Meet Again - The Early Years" from ASV Living Era in 1995, "The Golden Hits" from Pearl in 1997, "Celebration" from EMI in 1999, "Sincerely Yours" from Prism in 1999, "The Vera Lynn Collection" (2 CD set) from EMI in 2000, "The Ultimate Collection Vol. 1 & 2" from St. Clair in 2001, "Vera Lynn Remembers" from EMI in 2002, "The Decca Years : 1936-1960" featuring 54 tracks on 3 CDs, and the newly released 3 CD set "White Cliffs Of Dover" from Goldies. One other CD set that may be of interest is one that also features Britain's other wartime sweetheart, Gracie Fields. known mostly in the U.S. for her hit recording of "Now Is The Hour". The CD is appropriately titled "Wartime Sweethearts" and is from Delta Blue.

There are many, many other CDs available mostly as imports, that feature the voice and personality of Vera Lynn. She remains singular in her place of honor as one of Great Britain's most memorable performers, and it is a tribute to her that so much of her artistry is still available for new generations to enjoy.

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