Click on the pictures to see enlarged versions of the images.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Lili Marlene

(Left: a poster for one of Vera Lynn’s many performances
for the troops, August 7, 1944, in Blackpool, England;
and right: a salute for “The Forces’ Sweetheart”)

It happens sometimes that a song can become the anthem for the soldiers of both sides of a conflict. Such a song of sentiment gains popularity in part by reminding the men of their sweetheart and the hearth and home they have left behind.

Yesterday, we featured the love song
Lorena, from the American civil war.

Today, we look at
Lili Marlene, the German love song that became the favorite of the soldiers fighting for both the Allies and the Axis during the Second World War.

Lili Marlene was written in 1915 by Hans Leip, a soldier with the German Imperial Army in the First World War. Set to music by Norbert Schultze in 1938, it was first published under the title of The Song of a Young Soldier on Watch.

A recoding of that song by the German singer Lale Andersen was broadcast repeatedly over Nazi-controlled radio in Belgrade at the start of the Second World War. Soon, soldiers from both sides, throughout Europe and the Mediterranean, were singing the wistful lyrics in German, until the words were translated into the many different languages of all the combatants.

The most popular English versions were those performed by the British singer Vera Lynn (born in 1917) and Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992), the German actress and singer who chose exile over life in a Nazi state.

To listen to the performance by Vera Lynn, please click here.


Underneath the lantern
By the barrack gate,
Darling, I remember
The way you used to wait.
’Twas there that you whispered tenderly
That you loved me;
You’d always be
My Lili of the Lamplight,
My own Lili Marlene.

Time would come for roll call,
Time for us to part,
Darling, I’d caress you
And press you to my heart,
And there ’neath that far-off lantern light,
I’d hold you tight,
We’d kiss good night,
My Lili of the Lamplight,
My own Lili Marlene.

Orders came for sailing,
Somewhere over there.
All confined to barracks
Was more than I could bear.
I knew you were waiting in the street,
I heard your feet
But could not meet
My Lili of the Lamplight,
My own Lili Marlene.

Resting in our billet
Just behind the line,
Even tho’ we’re parted,
Your lips are close to mine.
You wait where that lantern softly gleams,
Your sweet face seems
To haunt my dreams,
My Lili of the Lamplight,
My own Lili Marlene.

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