|Height:||170 cm (5' 7'')|
|Birth Day:||March 20, 1917|
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|170 cm (5' 7'')||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
She began performing at age seven; in 1935 she performed on her first radio broadcast.
Vera Margaret Welch was born in East Ham, Essex, now part of the London Borough of Newham, on 20 March 1917. She was the daughter of plumber Bertram Samuel Welch (1883–1955) and dressmaker Annie Martin (1889–1975), who had married in 1913. In 1919, when Lynn was two years old, she fell ill with diphtheritic croup and nearly died. She was sent to an isolation unit and was discharged after three months there. As a result of her hospitalisation, her mother was very protective of her and did not allow her to visit friends or play in the street for a long time afterwards. Lynn recalled her mother was not as strict with her elder brother Roger as she was with her.
She began performing publicly at the age of seven and adopted her maternal grandmother Margaret's maiden name "Lynn" as her stage name when she was eleven. Her first radio broadcast, with the Joe Loss Orchestra, was in 1935. At this point she appeared on records released by dance bands including those of Loss and of Charlie Kunz. In 1936, her first solo record was released on the Crown label, "Up the Wooden Hill to Bedfordshire". This label was absorbed by Decca Records in 1938. She supported herself by working as an administrative assistant to the head of a shipping management company in London's East End. After a short stint with Loss she stayed with Kunz for a few years during which she recorded several standard musical pieces.
Vera Lynn made her solo recording debut with the song "The General's Fast Asleep" on 3 October 1935, accompanied by the Rhythm Rascals (a pseudonym for Jay Wilbur's orchestra). The 9" 78 rpm single was issued on the Crown Records label, which went on to release a total of 8 singles recorded by Vera Lynn and Charles Smart on organ. Early recordings include "I'm in the Mood for Love" and "Red Sails in the Sunset".
In 1937, Lynn made her ﬁrst hit recordings, "The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot" and "Red Sails in the Sunset".
In 1938, the Decca label took over control of the British Crown label and the UK-based Rex label; they had also issued early singles from Lynn in 1937, including "Harbour Lights". In late September 1939, Vera Lynn first recorded a song that continues to be associated with her: "We'll Meet Again" was originally recorded with Arthur Young on the Novachord.
During the Second World War, Lynn lived with her parents in a house she had bought in 1938 at 24 Upney Lane, Barking. In 1941, Lynn married Harry Lewis, a clarinetist, saxophonist and fellow member of Ambrose's orchestra whom she had met two years earlier. They rented another house in Upney Lane, near her parents' house. Lewis became Lynn's manager prior to 1950, after leaving his own career behind.
Lynn is best known for the popular song "We'll Meet Again", written by Ross Parker and Hughie Charles. She first recorded it in 1939 with Arthur Young on Novachord, and later again in 1953 accompanied by servicemen from the British Armed Forces. 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") were very popular during the war and made the song one of its emblematic hits.
During the Phoney War, the Daily Express asked British servicemen to name their favourite musical performers: Vera Lynn came out on top and as a result became known as "the Forces' Sweetheart". In July 1940, Lynn made her first appearance as a "fully fledged solo act" in Coventry.
Lynn's wartime contribution began when she would sing to people who were using London's tube station platforms as air raid shelters. She would drive there in her Austin 7 car. Between 1937 and 1940, she also toured with the aristocrat of British dance bands, Bert Ambrose as part of the Ambrose Octet; the group appeared in broadcasts for the BBC and for Radio Luxembourg. She left Ambrose in 1941.
Her continuing popularity was ensured by the success of her radio programme "Sincerely Yours", which began airing in 1941, with messages to British troops serving abroad. However, in the aftermath of the fall of Singapore in February 1942 the programme was taken off air for 18 months out of fear that the sentimental nature of her songs would undermine the "virile" nature of British soldiers. Instead, "more traditionally martial classical music" was promoted.
Between 1942 and 1944, she appeared in three movies with wartime themes.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s the Decca label issued all of Lynn's records, including several recorded with Mantovani and His Orchestra in 1942, and with Robert Farnon from the late 1940s. These were only available as 78 rpm singles, which contained only two songs as an A and a B-side. In the mid-1950s, Decca issued several EP singles, which comprised between two and four recordings per side, such as Vera Lynn's Party Sing Song from 1954. Lynn was the first British artist to have a number one in U.S. charts, achieved with "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart", which stayed at the top for nine weeks in 1952. Singles were now issued on two formats: the known 78 rpm 10" shellac discs, and the recently introduced 45 rpm 7" vinyl single. In the late 1950s, Lynn recorded four albums at Decca, the first; Vera Lynn Concert remains her only live recording ever issued on vinyl.
Lynn and her quartet continued to perform songs most requested by the soldiers. Lynn also visited hospitals to interview new mothers and send personal messages to their husbands overseas. Her other great wartime hit was "The White Cliffs of Dover", words by Nat Burton, music by Walter Kent. In 1943, she appeared in the films We'll Meet Again and Rhythm Serenade.
In March 1944, she went to Shamshernagar airfield in Bengal to entertain the troops before the Battle of Kohima. Her host and lifelong friend Captain Bernard Holden recalled "her courage and her contribution to morale". In 1985, she received the Burma Star for entertaining British guerrilla units in Japanese-occupied Burma.
The couple had one child in March 1946, Virginia Penelope Anne Lewis (now Lewis-Jones). Her husband died in 1998. Lynn said her reason for only having one child was so that she could carry on working, since she would have been unable to do so had she had more children.
Lynn's "Auf Wiederseh'n, Sweetheart" in 1952 became the first record by a British performer to top the charts in the United States, remaining there for nine weeks. She also appeared regularly for a time on Tallulah Bankhead's US radio programme The Big Show. "Auf Wiederseh'n, Sweetheart", along with "The Homing Waltz" and "Forget-Me-Not", gave Lynn three entries on the first UK Singles Chart.
In 1953, Lynn formed the cerebral palsy charity SOS (The Stars Organisation for Spastics) and became its chairperson. The Vera Lynn Charity Breast Cancer Research Trust was founded in 1976, with Lynn its chairperson and later its president.
Her popularity continued in the 1950s, peaking with "My Son, My Son", a number-one hit in 1954 which she co-wrote with Gordon Melville Rees.
In 1955, Lynn began her first television series and in 1955, she signed an exclusive contract with the BBC for two years of radio and television work.
In 1960, she left Decca Records (after nearly 25 years) and joined EMI. She recorded for EMI's Columbia, MGM and HMV labels. She also recorded Lionel Bart's song "The Day After Tomorrow" for the 1962 musical Blitz!; she did not appear onstage in the play, but the characters in the play hear the song on the radio while they shelter from the bombs.
The Royal Variety Performance included appearances by Vera Lynn on four occasions: 1960, 1975, 1986 and 1990. Lynn was also interviewed about her role in entertaining the troops in the India-Burma Theatre, for The World at War series in 1974. Lynn is also notable for being the only artist to have a chart span on the British single and album charts reaching from the chart's inception to the 21st century – in 1952 having three singles in the first ever singles chart, compiled by New Musical Express, and later having a No. 1 album with We'll Meet Again – The Very Best of Vera Lynn.
In 1960, after more than 20 years at Decca Records, Lynn signed to the US based MGM Records. In the UK, her recordings were distributed by the His Masters Voice label, later EMI Records. Several albums and stand-alone singles were recorded with Geoff Love & His Orchestra. Norman Newell also took over as Lynn's producer in this period and remained with her until her 1976 album Christmas with Vera Lynn. Recording at EMI Records up until 1977, Lynn released thirteen albums with material as diverse as traditional hymns, pop and country songs, as well as re-recording many of her known songs from the 1940s for the albums Hits of the Blitz (1962), More Hits of the Blitz and Vera Lynn Remembers – The World at War (1974). In the 1980s, two albums of contemporary pop songs were recorded at the Pye Records label, both including covers of songs previously recorded by artists such as ABBA and Barry Manilow.
In 1967, she recorded "It Hurts To Say Goodbye", a song which hit the top 10 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart. Vera Lynn was the subject of This Is Your Life on two occasions, in October 1957 when she was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the BBC Television Theatre, and in December 1978, for an episode which was broadcast on 1 January 1979, when Andrews surprised her at the Cafe Royal, London.
She hosted her own variety series on BBC1 in the late 1960s and early 1970s and was a frequent guest on other variety shows such as the 1972 Morecambe & Wise Christmas Show. In 1972, she was a key performer in the BBC anniversary programme Fifty Years of Music. In 1976, she hosted the BBC's A Jubilee of Music, celebrating the pop music hits of the period 1952–1976 to commemorate the start of Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee year. For ITV she presented a 1977 TV special to launch her album Vera Lynn in Nashville, which included pop songs of the 1960s and country songs.
Lynn's visit to the Burma front during the Second World War was included in the British television documentary series The World at War in 1974 and narrated by Lord Olivier. A short interview made for the documentary is included in Episode 14, "It's A Lovely Day Tomorrow: Burma 1942–1944".
In 1976, Lynn received an honorary Doctorate of Laws from the Memorial University of Newfoundland. She received the Freedom of the City of London in 1978. In 2000, she received a "Spirit of the 20th Century" Award in a nationwide poll in which she won 21% of the vote. A street named in her honour, Vera Lynn Close, is situated in Forest Gate, London. She was awarded the honorary degree of Master of Music (M.Mus) in 1992 by the University of London.
On their 1979 album The Wall, Pink Floyd released a song titled "Vera", referencing Vera Lynn and the song "We'll Meet Again" with the lyrics "Does anybody here remember Vera Lynn? / Remember how she said that / We would meet again / Some sunny day?". "We'll Meet Again" was also used as an intro to the live performances of The Wall in 1980 and 1981 (as can be heard on Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall Live 1980–81). The 1982 film Pink Floyd – The Wall opens with "The Little Boy that Santa Claus Forgot" performed by Lynn.
In 1982, Lynn released the stand-alone single "I Love This Land", written by André Previn, to mark the end of the Falklands War. Lynn's last recordings before her retirement were issued in 1991 via the News of the World newspaper, with proceeds in aid of the Gulf Trust.
In August 1985, she appeared on stage at Crystal Palace Bowl, with Hawkwind, Doctor and the Medics and several other rock bands, for the finale of a benefit concert for Pete Townshend's Double-O anti-heroin charity.
Lynn sang outside Buckingham Palace in 1995 in a ceremony that marked the golden jubilee of VE Day.
In 2002, Lynn became president of the cerebral palsy charity The Dame Vera Lynn Trust for Children with Cerebral Palsy, and hosted a celebrity concert on its behalf at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. In 2008, Lynn became patron of the charitable Forces Literary Organisation Worldwide for ALL.
The United Kingdom's VE Day ceremonies in 2005 included a concert in Trafalgar Square, London, in which Lynn made a surprise appearance. She made a speech praising the veterans and calling upon the younger generation always to remember their sacrifice, and joined in with a few bars of "We'll Meet Again". This would be Lynn's final vocal performance at a VE Day anniversary event.
In September 2008, Lynn helped launch a new social history recording website, "The Times of My Life", at the Cabinet War Rooms in London. Lynn published her autobiography, Some Sunny Day, in 2009. She had written two previous memoirs: Vocal Refrain (1975) and We'll Meet Again (1989).
In February 2009, it was reported that Lynn was suing the British National Party (BNP) for using "The White Cliffs of Dover" on an anti-immigration album without her permission. Her lawyer claimed the album seemed to link Lynn, who does not align with any political party, to the party's views by association.
In September 2009, at the age of 92, Lynn became the oldest living artist to make it to No. 1 in the British album chart. Her compilation album We'll Meet Again: The Very Best of Vera Lynn entered the chart at number 20 on 30 August, and then climbed to No. 2 the following week before reaching the top position, outselling both the Arctic Monkeys and the Beatles. With this achievement, she surpassed Bob Dylan as the oldest artist to have a number one album in the UK.
She became the patron of the Dover War Memorial Project in 2010; the same year she became patron of the British charity Projects to Support Refugees from Burma/Help 4 Forgotten Allies. In 2013 she joined a PETA campaign against pigeon racing, stating that the sport is "utterly cruel".
In August 2014, Lynn was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue. In May 2015, she was unable to attend VE Day 70: A Party to Remember, in London but was interviewed at home by the Daily Mirror.
Three days before her 100th birthday on 17 March 2017, a new LP entitled Vera Lynn 100 was released through Decca Records. The album, setting Lynn's original vocals to new re-orchestrated versions of her songs, also involves several duet partners including Alfie Boe, Alexander Armstrong, Aled Jones and the RAF Squadronaires. Parlophone, which owns Lynn's later recordings from the 1960s and 1970s, released a collection of her songs recorded at Abbey Road Studios entitled Her Greatest from Abbey Road on 10 March 2017, including five previously unreleased original recordings. By October 2017, she was the best-selling female artist of the year in the UK, having sold more albums than contemporary artists like Dua Lipa and Lana del Rey.
In 2018, Lynn received the Outstanding Contribution to Music award at the Classic Brit Awards. In January 2019, it was reported that The London Mint Office had commissioned acclaimed Norwegian artist Ross Kolby to paint a portrait of Dame Vera. The painting was unveiled on 13 January 2020 and hangs in the Royal Albert Hall in London where Dame Vera performed on 52 occasions.
A preserved example of the WD Austerity 2-10-0 class of steam locomotives at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway is named Dame Vera Lynn. One of two new boats for the Woolwich Ferry service, which were delivered via Tilbury in autumn 2018, was named Dame Vera Lynn in her honour.
On his 2018 album Would You Still Be in Love, Anthony Green released a song titled "Vera Lynn" that referenced her songs "We'll Meet Again" and "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square".
In January 2020, a new painted portrait of Lynn was unveiled at the Royal Albert Hall in connection with the 75th anniversary of the peace in 1945. The portrait is painted by Ross Kolby and was unveiled by Lynn's daughter Virginia Lewis-Jones and Britain's Got Talent winner Colin Thackery. The painting will be on permanent display at the venue where Lynn performed 52 times from 1937 to 2006. The documentary film Dame Vera Lynn – The Voice of a Nation premiered at the unveiling ceremony at the Hall and tells the story of 'The Forces' Sweetheart' and Kolby's portrait.
On 5 April 2020 the song "We'll Meet Again" was echoed by Queen Elizabeth II in a television address she delivered addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. For the 75th anniversary of VE Day, Lynn and Katherine Jenkins duetted virtually (Jenkins singing next to a hologram) at the Royal Albert Hall, which was empty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vera Lynn died on 18 June 2020 at her home in East Sussex aged 103. Tributes to Lynn were led by the Royal Family, with Queen Elizabeth II sending private condolences to Lynn's family and Clarence House issuing tributes from Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall. The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, also led with tributes in Parliament, while musicians like Sir Paul McCartney and Katherine Jenkins and public figures like Captain Tom Moore discussed her profound impact. On the day of her death, regular programming on the BBC was stopped in order to air tributes to the singer. The Band of the Coldstream Guards convened the same day to play her song "We'll Meet Again". After Lynn's death, Jenkins began campaigning to erect a statue of her by the White Cliffs of Dover, a location referenced in another of her famous songs.
Lynn was given a military funeral, which was held on 10 July 2020 in East Sussex. The procession made its way from her home in Ditchling to the Woodvale Crematorium in Brighton; it was widely attended by the public. Ditchling was decorated with poppies, a symbol of military remembrance. Ahead of the funeral, the White Cliffs of Dover had images of Lynn projected onto them, as "We'll Meet Again" was being played across the English Channel. Her cortege was accompanied by members of the Royal Air Force, the British Army, the Royal Navy, and the Royal British Legion, as well as the Battle of Britain Spitfire flypast, which followed the cortege and passed over Ditchling three times (10 July 2020 was the 80th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Britain). Her coffin was draped in a Union Flag with a wreath. At the family service at the Woodvale Crematorium chapel, she was serenaded by a Royal Marine bugler. Her family have said a public memorial service will be organised for some time in the future.
Currently, Vera Lynn is 106 years, 0 months and 3 days old. Vera Lynn will celebrate 107th birthday on a Wednesday 20th of March 2024.
Find out about Vera Lynn birthday activities in timeline view here.