Vera Lynn


Dame Vera Lynn, DBE (born Vera Margaret Welch on 20 March 1917) is an English singer whose career flourished during World War II. Nicknamed "The Forces' Sweetheart", the songs most associated with her are "We'll Meet Again" and "The White Cliffs of Dover".

Early life

Lynn was born Vera Margaret Welch on 20 March 1917, in East Ham, then in Essex, now part of Greater London. Vera Lynn went to what is now called Brampton Primary School in East Ham. Her father was a plumber and Vera Welch grew up with her parents' Cockney accent, which can still be detected when she speaks. She began singing at the age of seven in a working men's club, and later adopted her grandmother's maiden name for her stage name. Lynn's first radio broadcast was in 1935 with the Joe Loss Orchestra. She was already being featured on the records of dance bands, including those led by Loss and Charlie Kunz. She made her first solo record on the Crown label in 1936, "Up the Wooden Hill to Bedfordshire". (The label was soon bought out by Decca.) After a short time with Loss, she sang with Kunz. Lynn then joined the dance band of Bert Ambrose.

War years

In 1940, one year after the beginning of World War II, Lynn began her own radio programme, Sincerely Yours, sending messages to British troops serving abroad. She and a quartet would perform songs most requested by the soldiers. Lynn also visited hospitals to interview new mothers and send personal messages to their husbands overseas. During the war years she would tour Egypt, India, Burma, giving outdoor concerts for the troops.

In 1942, Lynn recorded the Ross Parker/Hughie Charles song "We'll Meet Again", also appearing in the film of that 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") were very popular during the war and became one of the emblematic songs of the war. Contrary to later reports, she neither sang nor recorded the "Rose of England" during this time and it was only in 1966 when her producer, David Gooch, selected it for her album More Hits of the Blitz that she became familiar with it. The album itself was a follow up to Hits of the Blitz produced by Norman Newell.

Post-war career

Lynn's Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart became the first record by a British performer to top the charts in the United States, doing so for nine weeks. She also appeared regularly for a time on Tallulah Bankhead's U.S. radio programme, The Big Show. "Auf Wiedersehen, 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 actually contained 15 songs owing to tied positions).

Lynn remained popular in the 1950s, peaking with "My Son, My Son", a number-one hit in 1954. Lynn co-wrote the song with Gordon Melville Rees. In early 1960, she left Decca Records after nearly 25 years, and joined EMI. She recorded for EMI's Columbia, MGM and HMV labels. She hit the top 10 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart in 1967 with "It Hurts To Say Goodbye".

Dame Vera hosted her own variety series on BBC1 in the late 1960s and early 1970s and was a frequent guest on other variety shows, notably The 1972 Morecambe & Wise Christmas Show. In 1972, she was one of the key performers in the BBC anniversary programme Fifty Years Of Music. In 1976, she hosted the BBC's A Jubilee Of Music, celebrating the pop music hits of the period 1952-1976 to commemorate the start of Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee year. For ITV, she presented a TV special in 1977 to launch her album Vera Lynn in Nashville.

Vera is also notable for being the only artist to have a chart span on the UK single and album charts reaching from the chart's inception to the 21st century — having three singles in the first ever singles chart, and most recently having a #1 album with We'll Meet Again — The Very Best Of Vera Lynn.
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