Regrettably few performers from the Cladrite Era are still with us today, but one of the biggest and most beloved stars among them, British songbird Vera Lynn, turns 96 today.
Ms. Lynn was certainly well known in the U.S., but she was (and remains) especially beloved in the U.K. In 2009, she became, at age 92, the oldest living artist to top the British album charts when her greatest-hits collection, The Very Best of Vera Lynn, went to no. 1.
Vera Margaret Welch began performing in 1924 at the age of seven, taking her grandmother’s maiden name as her stage moniker. In the mid-1930s, she was recording with the orchestras of Joe Loss and Charlie Kunz, and she was first heard on the radio in 1935, singing with Loss’s band.
Her first solo record was “Up the Wooden Hill to Bedfordshire” (1936), which took its title from a whimsical term used to describe a child being reluctantly put to bed.
Her career was at its height during the years of World War II, when hits such as “We’ll Meet Again” and “White Cliffs of Dover” warmed the hearts of soldiers at the front and their loved ones back home. She also toured tirelessly during the war, entertaining troops in India, Egypt and Burma.
Her recording of “Auf Wiederseh’n Sweetheart” (1952) was the first recording by a British performer to top the American charts; it remained at no. 1 for nine weeks.
She had top ten hits in the U.K. as recently as 1967, and both hosted and guested on television variety programs in the ’60s and ’70s.
Lynn’s last public performance came in 1995, when she sang outside Buckingham Palace as part of a ceremony that marked the golden jubilee of VE Day. In 2000, she was named the Brit who best represented the spirit of the 20th century.
Quite a gal is Dame Vera Lynn, and we know Cladrite readers and listeners everywhere join us in wishing her the happiest of birthdays. Enjoy the songs we’re shared below; we suspect they’ll leave you wanting more.
Vera Lynn—Up the Wooden Hill to Bedfordshire
Vera Lynn—(There’ll Be Blue Birds Over) The White Cliffs Of Dover