During World War II, she performed outdoor concerts for the British soldiers, including tours overseas. “Everyone appreciated the concerts and me going abroad and everything, because it wasn’t easy carrying on a theatrical profession during the war; it was mostly radio, and speaking to people and giving messages from families to the boys that were away overseas, so I felt as if I were doing a little help towards the war effort! It was wonderful.”
Throughout her tenure in the music profession, she notes that the industry has changed substantially. “The music has turned into different styles, and during the war, it wasn’t just the pleasure of having music, but it was a necessity. It helped people to cope: the different songs, the programs, and the messages that parents and friends could send here over the radio, and it was a very important medium.”
Her CD, We’ll Meet Again: The Very Best of Vera Lynn, was released in 2009, peaked at #1 on the British Album Charts and remained there for two weeks; at age 92, Dame Vera became the oldest living person to have a #1 record on those charts. “They released the album and it did so well that it went to #1. It was a great surprise for me!” she exclaims.
“We’ll Meet Again” is the song that she claims as her personal favorite. “It’s such a song of good meaning,” she adds.
Yet another well-known tune for Dame Vera is “My Son, My Son,” which was a chart-topping hit for her. “I don’t know why, but it was very popular. That song meant a lot to me, because one of my very best friend’s young son got killed at the same time in an accident, and it was very poignant, and it meant a lot.”
Among her many original albums, she had an album of country songs entitled Vera Lynn in Nashvillethat came out in 1977. “I like country music, and to be able to do a record with the Jordanaires, who are very famous singers, was a different experience for me and I enjoyed it very much!”
In 1959, she was made an Officer of the British Empire (OBE); moreover, in 1975, she was invested as a Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE). “That was a great honor! I was absolutely thrilled to go to Buckingham Palace, where the Queen herself presented me with the honor, which is very nice, because she doesn’t always do that, and I am very proud of it.”
Along with her damehood, she shares that she is also proud of being called the “Sweetheart of the Forces.” “It was a title given to me through a competition that the Express newspaper organized, and they voted me their favorite singer, so I was very honored with that.”
Since 1953, she has been actively involved with a school for very young children with cerebral palsy. It is called the Dame Vera Trust for Children with Cerebral Palsy, and it is one of her main charities. “It helps the parents, since they can get together with their children and discuss their problems, which then in turn helps the families, so it’s an all-involving situation. Since the children are so young, they are unable to understand, and it is only the wonderful teachers that they have who can take them through the conductive education system, and it does help them a lot. It’s a pleasure for me to help them, and it’s lovely to see them when you go and how they’ve improved.”
Regarding the key to her longevity, the living legend remarks that it is essential to keep involved with various things, as well as to mix with people, and try to get on with life. “As you get older, it’s not so easy to get about, but I manage it and it is lovely to keep in touch with people all the time, and if you are doing it to help a good charity, then it’s all worthwhile.”
Her talents are not only limited to performing. “I used to paint and draw a bit, and I always wanted to do much more of that.”
Dame Vera has made her name singing certain songs a certain way. For aspiring singers, she underscores the importance to stay true to their style, as well as the songs that they sing. “If people know you, and they’ve made you a success doing something, then you should always stay with it, because then they will think that you are not sincere.”
The veteran songstress concludes by thanking her fans for following her career, as well as for staying faithful to her, even though the music has changed these days. “It is nice to know that my records and music are still appreciated. The songs that were written in those days will never die; they will always be there for people to listen to and enjoy, because they held so much emotion and genuine lyrics.”