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Vera Lynn (1917–2020), singer known for WWII hit “We’ll Meet Again”

by Linnea Crowther

Vera Lynn was a singer, songwriter, and actress known for the wartime hit songs “We’ll Meet Again” and “White Cliffs of Dover.”

Bringing hope during war

Born Vera Margaret Welch in London March 20, 1917, she took her grandmother’s last name, Lynn, when she began her performing career. That career was at its height during World War II, when her sweetly sentimental songs touched the hearts of servicemen and folks on the homefront alike.

Lynn’s song “We’ll Meet Again” was released in 1939 and came to represent the bond between soldiers and their families for many in England and beyond. “White Cliffs of Dover” was another wartime hit, as was “There’ll Always Be an England.” The popularity of these hits led English service members to vote Lynn as their favorite musician in a 1939 poll, leading to her nickname the Forces’ Sweetheart.

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Postwar success and movie career

Musical success led to a modest movie career for Lynn, beginning with 1943’s “We’ll Meet Again,” based loosely on her own life. Other movies included “Rhythm Serenade” and “One Exciting Night.” But music was the bedrock of her career and remained her focus. In the 1950s, she saw international success with singles including “Auf Wiederseh’n Sweetheart,” which topped the Billboard chart in the U.S., “The Homing Waltz” and “My Son, My Son.” She continued to record throughout the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. She also appeared on television shows such as “This Is Your Life” and her own variety show on BBC1. In 2009, she became the oldest living person to have a U.K. No. 1 album, with “We’ll Meet Again: The Very Best of Vera Lynn.”

Lynn received the honor of Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1969, which was surpassed in 1975 when she was named Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (DBE).

Lynn on entertaining the troops

“It’s so important to get entertainment to the boys. There was so little said about the Burmese war. The Forgotten 14th, they called them. It meant so much to them that someone would go out there. I remember one of the boys saying, ‘Home can’t be that far away, ’cause you’re here.’ It shortened the distance somehow.” —from a 2001 interview with the Guardian

What people said about her

Full obituary: The New York Times

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