God bless you, Vera Lynn, for bringing us music, song, and a ray of hope in dark times.
Vera Lynn became a household name, rather than a celebrity. She was not just the forces sweetheart: she was everybody’s sweetheart. She looked and behaved in the way that ordinary people do: she seemed to understand what makes us tick.
And she sang and performed with astonishing skill, holding huge crowds in the palm of her hand.
But there is also a challenging aspect to our affection and admiration for this woman whose voice resonated throughout the last century into the present one.
It is the genius and the attraction of music to inspire in us the recognition of things that really matter but which we do not yet fully experience.
The gospel songs that arose from the evil and injustice of slavery were drawn from stories in the Bible which promised liberation and freedom. It was in the singing of these songs that hope was kept alive.
The hope that “Jimmy will go to sleep in his own little room again” is one of the most haunting lines in the songs of Vera Lynn. It paints a picture of stable family life, looking beyond the trauma of wartime evacuation.
But in many cases the reality was very different. Some of the poorest parts of the nation (London’s East end, Plymouth, Portsmouth, and Coventry), experienced bombing that destroyed hundreds of homes.
Jimmy, together with his sisters, had a long haul ahead of them. Not only was housing in short supply: food and clothing were also to be rationed for some years to come.
But it was singing the song that kept alive the hope of better times.
So I value in the memory of Vera Lynn. She reminds us that music can inspire us to look for a better future, beyond the limits of life today, and one in which both young and old can feel safe and can flourish. Music is a vehicle for this virtue of hope.
For Christians and non-Christians alike, music is not simply entertainment. It is instrumental in inspiring us to live well, to live fuller, better, happier lives.
Finally, if you can, please lobby your MP to guarantee urgent Government support for musicians and all artists as we emerge from lockdown.
Without the social benefit of the arts, our life might well be hopeless.
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