Achieving the grand age of 100 is always worth celebrating and Dame Vera Lynn has found a rather special way to mark the milestone.
To celebrate her 100th birthday on 20 March, Decca Records is releasing a special commemorative album, Vera Lynn 100, to mark the significant contribution the Dame has made to music, especially the way she lifted the spirits of soldiers during World War Two with her vocal gifts.
“It’s truly humbling that people still enjoy these songs from so many years ago, reliving the emotions of that time,” Dame Vera told Universal Music.
“I was, after all, just doing my ‘job’ as a singer—and it’s so wonderful for me to hear my songs again so beautifully presented in a completely new way.”
Apart from being one of the world’s most popular female vocalists, she is one of the most decorated, being made a Dame Commander in 1975 and elevated last year as a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour—the first entertainer to achieve this distinction.
Heady stuff for little Vera Welch who began performing publicly at the age
The song permanently associated with her, the wartime classic ‘We’ll Meet Again’, was recorded in 1939, which led to her being dubbed ‘the forces’ sweetheart’.
Dame Vera’s war service was extensive, including her radio program ‘Sincerely Yours’, which sent messages to British troops serving aboard, featuring the singer and her quartet performing soldiers’ song requests. Dame Vera also visited new mothers in hospital to send messages from them to their husbands serving abroad.
She also toured Egypt, India and Burma (now Myanmar), performing outdoor concerts for the troops and even entertained British guerrilla units when Burma was occupied by the Japanese.
Her other major wartime hit was ‘White Cliffs of Dover’ and Dame Vera proved that she was no pushover, reportedly suing the British National Party in 2009 for using that song on an anti-immigration album without her permission. Dame Vera objected to being linked with the party’s views by association.
What Dame Vera has been happy to be most known for in her postwar life is her charity work. It started in 1953, when she formed a charity for victims of cerebral palsy. In 1976, she was founder and chairperson of the Vera Lynn Charity Breast Cancer Research Trust, and in 2002 she became president of the Dame Vera Lynn Trust for Children with Cerebral Palsy, hosting a celebrity concert to assist it.
She is also patron of the Forces Literary Organisation Worldwide, has involved herself with the Dover War Memorial Project and is patron of Projects to Support Refugees from Burma/Help 4 Forgotten Allies.
In private life, she enjoyed a 57-year marriage to musician Harry Lewis until his death in 1998 and is mother to daughter Virginia. With all her musical and charitable contributions, Dame Vera Lynn reflects some advice we find in the Bible.
“Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians, chapter 9, verse 7).
There’s no doubt that over the years Dame Vera Lynn has certainly been that cheerful giver, making a positive difference in the world.