Born in 1917 in London, England, singer Vera Lynn began performing at age of 7. She gave up school at age 11 to start touring. By the late 1930s, Lynn had become a popular radio performer, appearing on the program Life from Mayfair. She got her own show, Sincerely Yours, in 1941. After World War II ended, Lynn made more albums and continued to tour. She had a No. 1 hit in the United States, "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart," in the early 1950s. Queen Elizabeth II made Lynn a dame of the British Empire in 1975. In 2009, she topped the British album charts with We'll Meet Again: The Very Best of Vera Lynn.
Born Vera Margaret Welch in London, England, on March 20, 1917, singer Vera Lynn was one of the most popular entertainers in Britain during World War II. She is the daughter of a plumber and grew up in London's East End. Lynn started performing locally at the age of 7 years old. By the time she was 11, Lynn had given up school for a life as an entertainer. She toured throughout England, appearing at music halls.
By the early 1930s, Lynn had begun to have some success as a vocalist, and she was performing with Joe Loss's orchestra by the mid-1930s. In 1937, she landed a spot singing with the Ambrose Orchestra on the radio program Life from Mayfair, and quickly became one of the country's most popular singers.
Sweetheart of the British Forces
In 1940, Vera Lynn got her own radio show, Sincerely Yours, which became a favorite of soldiers serving overseas. To her audience, she was the "girl next door" type, reminding those away at war of their loved ones back home. She often sang sentimental ballads on her program, with "We'll Meet Again" and "White Cliffs of Dover" becoming two of her signature songs.
Lynn also traveled abroad during the war, performing live shows for the troops. In 1941, she married Harry Lewis, a musician with the Royal Air Force's band. Lynn ranked No. 1 on a poll regarding soldiers' favorite entertainer, beating out the likes of Bing Crosby and Judy Garland, and became known as the "Forces' Sweetheart."
Around this time, Lynn appeared in several film musicals, including Rhythm Serenade (1943) and One Exciting Night (1944). After the war ended, she had a daughter, Virginia. Lynn soon returned to performing. In the early 1950s, she had a No. 1 hit in the United States, "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart." Lynn also enjoyed success back in Britain with hit singles such as "My Son My Son."
In the 1960s and '70s, Lynn continued to perform at live concerts and make records. She also became very active in social causes, especially on behalf of war veterans. In recognition of her charitable efforts, Queen Elizabeth II made her a dame of the British Empire in 1975. Previously, in 1959, Lynn received the Order of the British Empire.
In 2009, Lynn made a remarkable return to the British music charts. She was 92 years old at the time—becoming the oldest person to have the No. 1 top-selling album in the country—with the collection We'll Meet Again: The Very Best of Vera Lynn. That same year, she published the memoir Some Sunny Day.
While she's no longer interested in singing these days, Lynn has taken up painting with watercolors. "My subjects are usually from my lovely garden and the field beyond," she recently told the Daily Mail.
Lynn lives in Sussex, England, with daughter Virginia as her neighbor. Her beloved husband, Harry Lewis, died in 1999. Always interested in helping others, Lynn serves as president of the Dame Vera Lynn Trust for Children with Cerebral Palsy, a charity she founded in 2001.
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