Vera Lynn began her estimable career as a young lass in the 1930s, singing with the orchestras of Joe Loss and Charlie Kunz. A true "East End girl" (she was born in East Ham - one of the neighbourhoods that was devastated by the Luftwaffe during the Blitz), and with her crystal-clear vocal talents, her repertoire of sentimental-but-uplifting songs (such as I’ll Be Seeing You, The White Cliffs of Dover, A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, There’ll Always Be An England, and (of course) We’ll Meet Again) and her radio broadcasts and front-line concerts during the darkest days of WW2, she soon became known as the "Forces Sweetheart" and a truly worthy recipient of the epithet "national treasure"...
Vera Lynn at 18 singing Love Is Like A Cigarette with Joe Loss & his Orchestra on a 1930s variety show
Along with her cohorts Gracie Fields and Ann Shelton, she inspired many young artistes who followed in her wake, including Ruby Murray, Petula Clark ...and Dame Julie Andrews:
Her career may have waned commercially during the late 50s and early 60s with the advent of younger, fresher styles of music such as rock'n'roll and The Beatles, but she remained prominent in the collective British consciousness - with her own TV show in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and frequent appearances on other variety shows such as Morecambe and Wise (where she proved that she also had the capacity to poke fun of herself):
Here is the great lady singing the two hits for which she is most revered...
...and in honour of her centenary, images and clips of her singing were beamed on to the White Cliffs of Dover today:
- Among her many awards and distinctions: the British War Medal 1939-45 and the Burma Star; the OBE in 1969; Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 1975 Queen’s Birthday Honours for charitable services; the Freedom of the City of London in 1978; Officer of the Order of Saint John (OStJ) in 1998; Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour in the Birthday Honours 2016.
- Vera Lynn appeared at the Royal Variety Performance four times - 1960, 1975, 1986 and 1990; she has also performed for HM The Queen on many other occasions including the golden jubilee of VE Day in 1995.
- In addition to being the oldest living person to release an album (Vera Lynn 100 was released last week), Dame Vera has the unique distinction of having had the longest span in the UK record charts - with three entries on the in the first ever listings in 1952, and still a top-seller today in 2017; her new compilation album of her orchestrated hits is currently outselling the likes of Drake and Zara Larsson by a wide margin.
Happy 100th birthday, Dame Vera Margaret Lynn CH DBE OStJ (born 20th March 1917)!