We’ll Meet Again: The Story of Dame Vera Lynn’s War Classic



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Legend Dame Vera recorded the song several times, the most famous version from the film of the same name in 1943

We will see each other has become Dame Vera Lynn's flagship song. He was also one of the first singles to use a synth, was accused of being too "slushy" for the troops, and was featured in Dr Strangelove and Stranger Things.

No song has captured the sorrow and optimism of Britain at war better than We will see each other again.

Recorded in 1939 by Vera Lynn, who died at the age of 103, her words comforted those who were separated from their loved ones.

We will meet again, I don’t know where, I don’t know when / but I know we will meet again, on a sunny day. ”

The song has since been cited by the Queen and revived by Johnny Cash. He even entered the UK chart earlier this year, offering a message of hope during the coronavirus lockout.

“Her lyrics seemed to me to be a perfect example of what you might call the greeting card song,” wrote Dame Vera in her 1975 Vocal Refrain autobiography.

“A very basic human message of the kind that people want to say but find it embarrassing to put into words.” ”

The singer was only 22 years old when she recorded the song for the first time. It was during the first year of the conflict – during the so-called “phony war”, when troops were recruited but very little fighting took place – that Lynn found the song while shopping in the Denmark street music publishers in London for new items.

Hughie Charles, who had refused the opportunity to open the Lancashire County Cricket Club, was seeking his fortune as a composer.

Having assessed Lynn as “a very beautiful child”, he encouraged her to record two patriotic songs he had written with Ross Parker in anticipation of hostilities to come – the shrill, optimistic There will always be an England and the most melancholy We will meet again.

She played for the first time, we will meet again this summer with Bert Ambrose and his orchestra. “When I think back to the critics, I notice that the newspapers immediately picked it up,” she told The Guardian in 1995.

“It was the perfect song to sign, and I started to use it more and more. “

Pioneer of synth-pop

With a melody loosely based on Anton Rubinstein’s F-melody, it was the singer’s performance that touched people’s hearts – her typically low tone and emotional delivery resonated with the mood of the moment.

His first recording of the song took place later that year, accompanied by Arthur Young on a new instrument called Hammond Novachord, the first commercially available polyphonic synthesizer.

“The instrument that reproduces the sound of a dozen instruments” only made its debut at the New York World Fair in April, making Lynn’s single one of the first pop records (perhaps be the very first) to present a synth.

However, it was a later recording, supported by a full orchestra, that became more famous.

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Légende des médiasL'histoire derrière nous nous reverrons de Vera Lynn

By that time, she had become a staple on the forces radio with her Sincerely Yours program.

Over 20% of the UK audience listened to the show every Sunday evening, while Lynn performed hopeful songs amid hardship and read letters from people separated by war.

“Although we did the program from a studio, I always tried to imagine myself singing and speaking from home,” said the singer. “Speaking not to an audience in the conventional sense, but to dispersed individuals – an intimate conversation, but to a few million people. “

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Légende des médiasDame Vera Lynn parle aux troupes dans "Sincèrement vôtre"

Each episode ended with an interpretation of We will see each other again. ” Keep smiling / As you always do“, She urged the listeners. But not everyone was happy.

Following a series of British military defeats in North Africa, a small vocal campaign argued that “radio-crooners” and “sloppy sentimental litter” were affecting the morale of the forces.

“If our military really likes these things, the BBC should have a duty to hide the fact from the world,” wrote a typical Daily Telegraph correspondent in 1942. Instead, he argued, the troops should listen to “something more manly”.

Anti-slush campaign

In response, the BBC formed a Dance Policy Policy Committee, colloquially known as the “anti-slush” committee, to examine the music it played.

“We have recently adopted a policy of excluding unhealthy sentimentality which, especially when sung by some singers, can become nauseating and not at all consistent with what we feel is the need of the public in this country” , declared a decision of 1942..

Among the victims was Bing Crosby’s standard, I will be home for Christmas, which the committee said would make the troops nostalgic and discouraged. Likewise, the Mills brothers’ paper doll was banned because “we didn’t think it was desirable to spread the theme of the song of female infidelity.”

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Légende Vera Lynn est devenue une dame en 1976

La star n'a pas été influencée par les arguments, écrivant une colonne dans le Sunday Dispatch disant que le personnel des forces armées et leurs "épouses et amoureux" appréciaient le sentiment de son émission de radio hebdomadaire.

“In my two rounds of Sincerely Yours, I have received letters from boys in the military at the rate of 1,000 per week. In the end, I got 18,000 and they’ve been coming back since, “she wrote.

“As I saw it,” she then reflected, a song like We will see each other “reminded the boys of what they were really fighting for, the precious and personal things rather than ideologies and theories. “

“Special Delights”

As the “anti-slush” debate raged, one of the star’s “middle-aged listeners” wrote to the Radio Times, expressing support in particular for Lynn.

“The lyrics to his songs may have been so crazy. But she treated them with as much tenderness as if they were precious old people, as if they meant something, something she believed in and assuming her audience believed in, too, ”he wrote.

“By some magic, she managed to convince you that neither she nor anyone else had ever sung or heard the songs before, that she had just discovered their particular delights … and passed them on generously. ”

Unfortunately, the BBC gave in to pressure and canceled Lynn’s show, but its popularity persisted.

In 1943, she starred in a film loosely based on her own life, in which a beautiful young dancer discovers a gift for singing and puts her talents to the service of the British army in Europe.

Entitled We Will Meet Again, the finale included a re-recording of the title song, which has become the best-known version of the song.

Shortly thereafter, Sincerely Yours was reinstated by the BBC, and Lynn continued to travel the world, performing to “boys” in uniform.

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Légende Dame Vera est apparue avec Petula Clark et Bruce Forsyth à l'occasion du 60e anniversaire de la fin de la Seconde Guerre mondiale en 2005

Mais alors que les paroles douces-amères de Nous nous reverrons étaient parfaitement adaptées à l'incertitude de la guerre, la chanson a perduré et adaptée après 1945.

It was covered by Frank Sinatra

  • In pictures: the life and career of Dame Vera Lynn
  • Listen: Dame Vera Lynn’s Radio Vera profile

As the coronavirus hit the UK earlier this year, the song’s message of joyful resilience was invoked by the Queen, who in a rare television address told the nation, “We will be with our friends. We will be with our families again. We’ll see each other again. ”

Its message helped the song enter the singles charts for the first time in 81 years (the original recording predated the charts, although the score by Charles and Parker was a bestseller in the 1940s).

All the while, Lady Vera said that she “never tires of singing it.”

“I had no idea that this particular song would become the melody most associated with the war era,” she wrote in her autobiography. “Or that my voice would become the one that most reminded people of the hope for the future that we had to have at that time.

“I am told that schoolchildren today are still learning the words from We will see each other again. It fascinates me. “



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