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Friday, 30 August 2013

Women & War: Vera Lynn

Dame Vera Lynn (1917- ) is an English singer who was very popular during World War II. She was known as the "Forces' Sweetheart" and entertained soldiers with songs such as "We'll Meet Again" and "The White Cliffs of Dover". Lynn was born Vera Margaret Welch on March 20, 1917 in East Ham, London. Later she adopted her grandmother's maiden name Lynn as her stage name. Her father was a plumber and Vera grew up with her parents' Cockney accent, which she has never abandoned. She began singing at the age of seven in a working men's club.
Lynn married clarinettist & saxophonist Harry Lewis in 1939, the year World War II broke out. In 1940 she began her own radio series, "Sincerely Yours", sending messages to British troops stationed abroad. In this radio show she & a quartet performed the songs most requested to her by soldiers stationed abroad. She also went into hospitals to interview new mothers & send messages to their husbands overseas. She toured Burma & gave outdoor concerts for soldiers. In 1942 she recorded the song "We'll Meet Again" while making the film of the same name. The nostalgic lyrics ("We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when, but I know we'll meet again some sunny day") had a great appeal to the many people separated from loved ones during the war, and it became one of the emblematic songs of the wartime period.
Lynn was appointed an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in 1969 & a DBE (Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 1975. In 1976 a charity dedicated to funding breast cancer research was founded, Lynn being its chair & later its president. In 2002 at the age of 85 she became the president of the cerebral palsy charity SOS & hosted a celebrity concert on their behalf at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London.

* Vera Lynn and Pink Floyd

• Pink Floyd wrote a song called "Vera" for their 1979 album The Wall; in the film based on the album, a Christmas song "The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot" by Vera Lynn is played over the opening credits.
In the live version of The Wall, Is There Anybody Out There: The Wall Live 1980-1981, "We'll Meet Again" opens the concert before the show starts. It serves as a link between band member Roger Waters and his father, who was killed during World War II.

* Vera Lynn and Language

• A Vera Lynn is cockney rhyming slang for a skin, which is a cigarette paper.
"Buy me some veras and 10 Marlboro Light when you pass the newsagents."
• Vera Lynn is also cockney rhyming slang for words chin and gin and the drug heroin.

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