Dame Vera Lynn’s Still Got It

Dame Vera LynnWe were tickled pink recently to learn that the recent greatest-hits release from Dame Vera Lynn has sold more copies than any other album released by a female artist in the U.K. this year.

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.

Remembering Ernie Pyle

Journalist Ernie PyleErnie Pyle, a hero of ours, was born 117 years ago today on a farm near Dana, Indiana, on August 3, 1900. He’s best remembered today as a war correspondent during World War II. Pyle repeatedly put himself in harm’s way, positioning himself with the troops at the front lines so that he could tell the stories of the common soldiers, sailors and airmen who were fighting the war. His courageous approach to reportage made him beloved by folks back home who were eager to have some sense of what their loved ones were experiencing overseas.

But even before he devoted himself to covering the war, Pyle was a groundbreaking journalist. In the early thirties, he was the most respected writer in the country who covered the aviation beat, and from the mid-’30s through the United States’ entrance into World War II, he traveled the country’s back roads and byways, writing a syndicated column for Scripps-Howard about the people he met while traveling and the things he saw.

Here’s a story we wrote for the Guideposts magazine website about Pyle’s life and career.

Happy birthday, Ernie, wherever you may be…

Ernie Pyle (with goggles) converses with a tank crew from the 191st Tank Battalion, US Army at the Anzio Beachhead in 1944

A Flower for Ernie Pyle

A colleague of ours went to Hawaii last week, with a few days spent on Oahu. We told her about the late, great Ernie Pyle, a journalist we admire greatly (for both his reporting during World War II and his travel writing of the 1930s, when he drove the byways of the USA and wrote about he found there), and asked her to snap a picture of his final resting place, if she should happen to visit the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (also known as the Punchbowl Cemetery).

To be honest, we didn’t think it very likely she’d be visiting the Punchbowl, but we figured, what the heck—can’t hurt to ask. We visited the Punchball in the early ’80s, when our family spent some time on Oahu, but we didn’t know much about Pyle at the time, and so didn’t seek out his grave.

Bless her heart, our colleague made a special trip to the Punchbowl and left a flower for Ernie on our behalf. We’re very touched by the gesture.

Ernie Pyle's grave marker

Happy 108th Birthday, Carole Lombard!

Carole Lombard, the Great Dame of American cinema, was born Jane Alice Peters in Fort Wayne, Indiana, 108 years ago today. Here are 10 CL Did-You-Knows:

  • Lombard’s parents divorced when she was young, and it was during a Southern California vacation that her mother decided to relocate there with her three children (Carole had two older brothers).
  • Lombard was discovered at age 12 while playing baseball in the street by director Allan Dwan, who cast her in his picture A Perfect Crime (1921) as a tomboy. It was the only picture in which she would be listed in the credits as Jane Peters.
  • At age 18, Lombard was in an auto accident that scarred the left side of her face. Plastic surgery repaired the damage sufficiently for her career to continue after her recovery.
  • Lombard appeared in more than 35 silent pictures, many of them comedy shorts made by the Mack Sennett Company, where she honed the comedy skills that would serve her so well later in her career. She made 42 talkies before her life tragically came to an end at age 33.
  • Her name appeared in movie credits as Carol Lombard until an E was mistakenly added to her first name in the credits for Safety in Numbers (1930). The studio decided that would be the spelling of her name going forward, and she went along. She had her named legally changed to Carole Lombard in 1936.
  • Lombard was nicknamed the Profane Angel for her lovely appearance and, er, colorful vocabulary (it’s said she swore like a sailor).
  • Lombard’s first marriage, to actor William Powell, was short-lived—they were married just 26 months—but they remained devoted friends for the rest of her life.
  • She and second husband Clark Gable first met while serving as extras on the set of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925). They were extras on three films together and made one feature—No Man of Her Own (1932)—together, but wouldn’t become romantically involved until 1936.
  • For all her success in screwball and romantic comedies, Lombard turned down the female lead roles in three classic of those genres: It Happened One Night, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and His Girl Friday.
  • Lombard and her mother were on a war bonds tour when the TWA plane they were traveling on crashed 33 miles southwest of Las Vegas in the Spring Mountains. The flight’s three crew members and all 19 passengers were killed. She was posthumously awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the first woman killed in the line of duty during World War II.

Happy birthday, Carole Lombard, wherever you may be!

Carole Lombard

Happy 99th Birthday, Dame Vera Lynn!

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!

Dame Vera Lynn