Dame Vera Lynn

Danny Scott / 19 August 2019

What does wartime legend Dame Vera Lynn do to relax - and how is she connected to Ringo?



You started performing at seven years old. What made you want to sing?

Our house was always filled with music, laughter and fun. Family and neighbours popping in every day. There was never a dull moment. Dad was a natural performer and used to sing to me every night before I went to sleep. If there was a party for someone’s birthday or Christmas, I would get my chance to sing. I suppose I didn't really have to think about singing... it was natural. I entered a competition when I was seven and never looked back.

What was the first song you ever learned?

At that competition, I sang Little Rag Doll with my doll on stage, dressed in an outfit made by my mother. That song is still very special to me. 

Did you ever feel nervous when you got up on stage to sing?

I always felt a little bit of nerves right before going on stage, but I never let them overwhelm me. It's so important that you persevere through them, and it definitely got easier the more performing I did.  

Who were your favourite singers?

I liked so many singers back then, but the ones I especially remember are Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Tallulah Bankhead, Charles Aznavour and Florence Desmond. I still have a lot of favourites today… Cliff Richard, Barbra Streisand, Aled Jones, Hayley Westenra.

Did you enjoy performing for ‘our boys’?

Very much! It wasn't just a pleasure, it was a privilege. I was so honoured to get to do my bit for the war effort. They were out there risking their lives, so singing for them and getting a chance to meet them was really the least I could do. 

You always look very smart in the photos from that era. Have you still got any of the outfits?

I have been fortunate enough to keep the khaki uniform that I wore during my visit to Burma. I did take one evening dress with me, but it was totally impractical. Not the sort of thing you could wear in the jungle!

Did you ever think that people would still be listening to We’ll Meet Again all these years later?

I never really thought about that when I first recorded it, but it is humbling to know that people still enjoy my music. The lyrics of We'll Meet Again seem to strike a chord with people of all ages and backgrounds. They capture that feeling of separation, but also the hope of coming together again. I think that’s why it’s still so popular. 

What was your favourite decade?

I couldn’t really say if I had a favourite decade. There were special times in every decade, and I have always tried to make the most of everything in my life.

What was your first car?

I learned to drive out of necessity. If I was just going shopping, I used the buses, but I needed a car to get home after working late at night in the clubs. My first car was an Austin 10.

Can you remember the arrival of rock ‘n’ roll? What did you think of Elvis?

America had Elvis and we had Cliff Richard! Rock ‘n’ roll was huge in the 50s and I really enjoyed so much of the music at that time. Some wonderful songs.

What about the 60s? The Beatles and the Stones?

Yes, the 60s, too… especially the Beatles. I was delighted to have the opportunity to get to know and perform with them. Ringo played tambourine on Don’t You Remember When.

Remembering The Beatles' last live concert

These days, how do you relax?

I love to read mystery novels and I watch the television to keep up with current affairs. I particularly enjoy Murder, She Wrote with Angela Lansbury. And during the summer, there is nothing better than sitting in the garden… watching all the birds and the butterflies. 

What is your most prized possession?

I don’t have ‘one’ prized possession, but my memorabilia from that trip to Burma is something I have always treasured.

What makes you laugh?

Lots of things still make me happy. Simple things…being with family and close friends. Seeing others enjoy themselves. Happiness is contagious.

Are you still able to travel?

Unfortunately, I can't travel anymore, but feel so privileged to have travelled extensively throughout the world.  I used to love going to France for my holidays and I have wonderful memories from those times. I also enjoyed my trips around Britain… the beautiful British countryside. Such natural beauty all around us. I think it’s important that we take the time to enjoy and preserve it. 

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Do you prefer being in town or out in the country?

Both appeal to me for different reasons. My village (Ditchling in Sussex) community is one that holds a special place in my heart and I never tire of looking at the Sussex Downs.

How do you keep in touch with your family? Have you ever bothered with emails and texts?

I speak to my family on the phone and they visit regularly. I’m aware of emails and texts but haven’t personally owned a computer or a mobile phone.

What is WhatsApp and how do I use it?

What lessons did you learn from your parents?

They taught me so much about life. We were always close. People always respected my parents, and I learned a lot from them about how to conduct myself and treat others.

What did your 100th birthday mean to you?

I was overwhelmed by the good wishes when I reached 100. My family arranged a big concert at the Palladium and many of our friends from the business performed in support of the Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend, but was thrilled to watch a DVD of the performance… from the comfort of my armchair!

Vera Lynn’s new album, Keep Smiling Through, is released on September 6, 2019 via Decca Records. For more information on the Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity, visit dvlcc.org.uk.



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