Mercoledi Musciale

Yesterday Dame Vera Margaret Lynn celebrated her 102nd birthday. Born in the middle of the First Great War she became the “Forces Sweetheart” in Second World War and continued her performing career until 1995. She has had ships, trains, and streets named after her; she spearheaded a memorial to The Animals of War in Hyde Park; and she has worked for charities dedicated to veterans, disable children and breast cancer. And at 100 she became the oldest artist to release an album that topped the UK charts.

Dame Vera Lynn in 1977 at the Canadian National Exhibition Grandstand. She drew a crowd of 17,00 on the first of her three performances. She was still the “Forces’ Sweetheart”.
Photo: The Toronto Star Archives

To celebrate both her birthday and her remarkable career I’ve picked a song that like her began life during the First World War and became a favourite during the Second conflict of that name. Lili Marlene was a poem written by Hans Leip when he was conscripted into Imperial German Army and sent to the Eastern Front. In 1938 Norbert Schultze set it to music and it was recorded by Lale Anderson the following year. In one of those queer strokes of history it became one of the most popular songs of the period with both Allied and Axis forces.

In Stanley Krammer’s powerful Judgment at Nuremberg Marlene Dietrich and Spencer Tracy are walking through the rubble of the war-torn streets of Nuremberg. As they approach a bar they hear men inside singing Lili Marleen in German. Dietrich begins to sing along with the song, translating a few lyrics for Tracy, referring to the German lyrics as “much darker” than the English.

In one of those queer strokes of irony Lili Marlene/Lili Marleen became one of the most popular songs of the War with both Allied and Axis forces.

Very appropriately for our Island August 7th is Lighthouse Day. We have 63 of them on the Island – 35 are still active and 7 are designated as National Historic Sites.

Mercoledi Musicale

A friend posted this list of British Expressions – most of which I knew but it was the last one that struck me:  I’m off to Bedfordshire.   I said something similar for years now and I was trying to recall where I first heard it.   I believe it was in an Alan Bennett play called Forty Years On with a Nanny putting a young lad to bed.  Other gems from that scene including warnings about sitting on hot pipes,getting piles and your insides falling out; going out without your wellies on (it will make you go blind the way it did St Paul on the Damascus Road!); and policeman cutting “your little tail off” if you don’t lie down and go to sleep.  Ah the good old fashioned way of bringing up children:  terrorize them!


The “Bedfordshire”phrase also reminded another friend of an old Vera Lynn record. It was the 19 year old’s first commercial recording in 1936. I’ve always been a big fan of Dame Vera’s but I don’t honestly ever recall hearing this one before.

The etymology of the idiom “up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire” is well explained in this entry at The Phrase Finder.  Though the Phrase Finder suggests that it’s rather “twee” given my age I find it rather sweet – particularly as sung by Dame Vera.

Thanks to Olin and MJ for inspiring this one.

On this day in 1915: World War I: The Battle of Gallipoli begins: The invasion of the Turkish Gallipoli Peninsula by British, French, Indian, Newfoundland, Australian and New Zealand troops, begins with landings at Anzac Cove and Cape Helles.

Mercoledi Musicale

I was looking for something on YouTube the other day and as so often happens came across another clip that led me to all sorts of distractions.

Though she suggested that the title be passed on to some Welsh Popera singer there will only be one “Forces Sweetheart” – Dame Vera Lynn.

Still an active 93 Dame Vera was one of the people instrumental in having the Beast of Battle Memorial created. And she also topped the chart recently with a reissue of her greatest hits – an album that reached gold three weeks after it was released in 2009.

Here she is in an interview on September 3, 2009 – and she has a little surprise at the end.

7 lulgio – Santi Claudio, Illaria, Giasone e Mauro