Her simple, memorable melodies melted the hearts of wartime allies. Now, after a long innings of 103 years, British singer Dame Vera Lynn has passed away.
The “forces’ sweetheart” and performer of WWII standards including ‘We’ll Meet Again’ and ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’ was “born Vera Margaret Welch on 20 March 1917 in the London suburb of East Ham.” She passed away peacefully, aged 103, surrounded by her close family, in Ditchling, East Sussex, England, according to a statement published by the Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity.
Here’s what you need to know:
Dame Vera Lynn Began her Singing Career at a Young Age
Born just before the end of the First World War, she was the second child of a working-class family. Her father was a plumber and her mother was a dressmaker.
Lynn started her career at the tender age of 7, performing in local clubs. By the time she was 11 years old, she had left school and was a fulltime musician.
By age 15, she had her first agent. Her unusually deep voice was described by the British press as a “rich contralto” and “a freak mezzo-soprano with an irresistible sob”.
Lynn was admired for her wholesome qualities which music historian Paul du Noyer described as “[arousing] a wistful yearning for the idealised fiancee” in “lonesome soldiers.” She traveled as a solo artist on the variety theater circuit. In 1941, BBC producers chose her for a special program to be broadcast to the British expeditionary force, which was heard around the world, quickly making her a household name.
Her wartime audiences stretched as far as the Middle East, India and Burma.
She was the First Brit to Have a Number 1 Hit in America
Lynn’s “Auf Wiederseh’n, Sweetheart” went to number 1 in the U.S. in 1952. 30 years on, her patriotic single ‘I Love This Land’ was released during the Falklands War.
In 2009, she became the oldest living person to have a number 1 album with her compilation of greatest hits, ‘We’ll Meet Again.’
In 2018, a choral group called the D-Day Darlings reached the finals of Britain’s Got Talent and released an album including covers of Lynn’s songs.
‘We’ll Meet Again’ famously accompanies the ultimate scene of director Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove, as a cascade of atomic bombs hit the earth:
According to The Guardian, Lynn “was the subject of numerous comic impersonations, something she tried unsuccessfully to control through court action in the 1950s.”
She Leaves a Legacy of Charity Work for Children with Cerebral Palsy
The Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity was created in 2001 “to help children with cerebral palsy and other motor learning impairments,” CNN reported.
Her daughter, Virginia Lewis-Jones, told CNN, “my mother first became involved in raising awareness of cerebral palsy in the 50s when there was very little understanding of the condition and children who suffered from motor learning difficulties were often referred to rather pejoratively as ‘spastic.'”
The ‘Keep Smiling Through’ Just Giving appeal was established through the Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity.
“The Charity has been severely hit by the Coronavirus outbreak and is facing one of its toughest financial periods ever,” a statement on the website read.
“We have adopted the same determination Dame Vera showed throughout her long life and as one of Britains best-loved entertainers to continue to support our families and their very young children with cerebral palsy and other motor learning impairments.
“In the same way that Dame Vera provided positivity and spirit to the soldiers and their families during World War II, we here at her Children’s Charity would like to be able to help our families to continue to smile through this very troubling time.”
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