Here are 10 things you should know about Dame Vera Lynn, born 105 years ago today. She remains a beloved figure for her efforts to build morale and support the troops during the Second World War. We’re featuring Dame Vera’s music all day on Cladrite Radio, so tune in now!
Not bad for a 100-year-old songbird!
Lynn, known during World War II as “the Forces’ Sweetheart” for the inspiring wartime songs she sang and her dedicated efforts to entertain the troops, celebrated her centenary birthday in March of this year, and though she’s no longer recording, her reissues and greatest-hits packages have always done very well.
But the top-selling female artist in the U.K. more than 65 years after her heyday? That speaks to the deep affection and high esteem in which Dame Vera is held.
Longtime Cladrite Radio listeners and readers know very well how we feel about Dame Vera; her music has been a big part of our playlist since we went “on the air” years ago. So you can imagine how excited we were to receive in the mail last week this lovely autographed picture, direct from Dame Vera herself.
In the brief note that accompanied the picture, Dame Vera wrote, “My P.A. [personal assistant] Susan has told me about your radio station, and I commend you for keeping alive the memory of that bygone era.”
It’s our great pleasure, Dame Vera, and we’re grateful you’re still here with us. You’re an inspiration to us all.
If you’d like to show your appreciation to Dame Vera for the joy she’s brought us all over the years, consider supporting Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity, which is dedicated to supporting families with children under 5 years old with cerebral palsy and motor-learning difficulties. Dame Vera thanks you, and so do we.
The wonderful Dame Vera Lynn was born Vera Margaret Welch in East Ham, Essex, 100 years ago today! Here are 10 VL Did-You-Knows:
- On March 17, 2017, Lynn celebrated her centenarian status by releasing a new album, Vera Lynn 100, breaking the record she set at age 97 to remain the oldest person to ever release a new album.
The album comprises some of her most beloved hits with her original vocals set to new re-orchestrations, with the addition of vocals from a number of contemporary British performers.
- On March 18, a charity concert at the London Palladium featuring some of Britain’s best contemporary talent paid tribute Dame Vera and her remarkable life and career. Queen Elizabeth was in attendance.
- Lynn was performing for audiences by the tender age of seven (which means she’s been in show business more than 90 years) and by 11 had taken a stage name, Margaret Lynn (she later returned to her given first name, Vera).
- She first performed on the radio, with the popular Joe Loss Orchestra, in 1935, and in 1936 released her first solo recording, Up the Wooden Hill to Bedfordshire.
- Lynn is best remembered today for her moving renditions of sentimental wartime favorites, such as The White Cliffs of Dover, A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, There’ll Always Be an England, and her signature song, We’ll Meet Again. She further supported the war effort by hosting her own radio program, Sincerely Yours, on which she performed songs that were requested by soldiers and sailors. She also visited hospitals to meet with new mothers so that she could send their husbands who were serving overseas messages of love and support.
- Known during the war years as “the Forces’ Sweetheart,” Lynn performed for the troops in such remote and often dangerous locales as Egypt, India and Burma. For her tireless and courageous efforts, she was awarded the British War Medal and the Burma Star.
- After the war, she continued to record, topping the American charts (she was the first British performer to accomplish that feat) in 1952 with her recording of Auf Wiederseh’n Sweetheart. She was also a regular for some years on Tallulah Bankhead‘s American radio program, The Big Show.
- In the late 1960s and early ’70s, Lynn hosted her own variety television series on BBC1 and guested on a wide range of other TV programs.
- In all, Lynn placed 16 singles on the charts (UK, US or both) between 1948 and 1967. After the war, she continued to work for many worthy causes, including assisting ex-servicemen, disabled children, and breast cancer charities.
- In 1969, she was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) “for services to the Royal Air Forces Association and other charities.” In 1975, she was advanced to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE). At age 85, Lynn founded the Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity, which provides support and education for families affected by cerebral palsy.
- In 2000, Lynn received the Spirit of the 20th Century Award as the Briton who best exemplified the spirit of the 20th century.
Happy birthday, Dame Vera Lynn, and many happy returns of the day!
We’re featuring the music of Dame Vera on Cladrite Radio all day long today and well into the evening, so be sure to tune in!
This story originally appeared in a slightly different form at guideposts.org.
Sad as it is to consider, there are very few performers from the Cladrite Era who are still with us. That’s just one more reason—there are many others—why we should celebrate the life and career of Dame Vera Lynn, who was born 99 years ago this Sunday in East Ham, East London.
Lynn is beloved by Britons and people around the world for the songs she recorded during WWII that served to lift the spirits and bolster the hopes of those fighting the war and those who waited prayerfully for their safe return.
Widely known during the war years as “The Forces’ Sweetheart” for her inspiring recordings and her performances for the troops, Lynn has since devoted her talents and energy to charity work on behalf of veterans, disabled children and breast cancer research. In a poll taken in 2000, Lynn was named the Briton who best exemplified the spirit of the 20th century, and in 2009, her greatest-hits collection, We’ll Meet Again: The Very Best of Vera Lynn, reached the top of the charts, making the then-92-year-old the oldest living artist to make it to No. 1 on the British album chart. (An even more extensive collection, Vera Lynn: National Treasure, climbed all the way to #13 on the charts in 2014.)
We’re celebrating Dame Vera’s wonderful life and career by featuring her music on Cladrite Radio through Sunday. If you’re familiar with her work, you won’t have to be convinced to tune in over the next three days. If not, then you simply must listen. You’ll fall in love with her heartfelt, inspiring records just as we have.
Happy birthday, Dame Vera, and many happy returns of the day!