Vera Lynn, the world-famous British singer of World War II, has died at the age of 103. The New York Times reports:
“Churchill didn’t beat the Nazis,” the British comedian Harry Secombe once said. “Vera sang them to death.”
Ms. Lynn herself once said: “People used to say that my singing gave them courage and hope. I think that is a great compliment.”
. . .
At 22, in 1939, Ms. Lynn won The Daily Express newspaper’s “Forces’ Sweetheart” poll in a landslide. In 1940, she began her own BBC radio show, “Sincerely Yours,” which was beamed to troops around the world on Sunday nights right after the news.
“Winston Churchill was my opening act,” Ms. Lynn once said.
She read letters from the girlfriends, wives and mothers the troops had left behind. She sang her sentimental songs, “We’ll Meet Again” being the most popular. In the blitz that sent the Luftwaffe on nightly bombing raids over London in 1940, she sometimes slept in the theater until the all-clear sounded, then drove home through the rubble.
“The shows didn’t stop if a raid started,” she said. “We just used to carry on.”
Often, it seemed, Luftwaffe bombers droned over London just as Ms. Lynn sang “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square,” which became the theme song of the blitz.
. . .
Even in Nazi-occupied Europe, where death was the penalty for listening to the BBC, Ms. Lynn had her fans. “The Dutch used to listen to my programs in haystacks and hide themselves away,” she said. “They’d listen to the 9 o’clock news on Sunday night. It was their only link to the outside world.”
Ms. Lynn toured Burma (now Myanmar) for three months in 1944, earning the enduring affection of the so-called Forgotten Army, which battled the Japanese in jungle combat there. She started her journey with chiffon ball gowns, and when they fell apart, she finished in shorts. (They wound up as an exhibit in the Imperial War Museum in London.)
There's more at the link.
I grew up to Vera Lynn's music. Both of my parents lived through World War II, and loved her songs dearly. Her music was readily available on LP records, and they bought new ones to replace those they wore out through constant listening. I remember one in particular titled "Hits of the Blitz", which is still available. It was the soundtrack to my early years.
I daresay, if there's any sort of cosmic justice, she was welcomed into the next life by a massed cheer from all the servicemen and their families whose spirits were lifted by her songs during the war. I'm sure my parents would have been among them.
I'll devote the next "Sunday Morning Music" post to her songs. Meanwhile, to all who'll miss her, here's a reminder.