‘Irreplaceable’, sung by Katie Ashby from the D-Day Darlings and written by New Zealand singer-songwriter Vicki Lee, is released exactly one year after the Forces’ Sweetheart died at age 103.
Katie performed the track at The Coastguard in Dover during the launch of the fundraiser for a permanent statue to Dame Vera on the White Cliffs of Dover.
She was accompanied by award-winning composer and pianist Dominic Ferris, and performed ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’ as well.
Both songs are now available to download for £1.98 on Amazon, iTunes, and other digital platforms, with all proceeds going to the Dame Vera Lynn Memorial Statue.
“I wrote ‘Irreplaceable’ in 2009,” said Vicki, 68, adding that the original version was a tribute to Sir Howard Morrison, one of New Zealand’s top entertainers.
But, over the years it became clear to Vicki that the lyrics to ‘Irreplaceable’ also captured the essence Dame Vera Lynn, and what she means to everybody.
“I think it’s come full circle,” she said, adding that Howard Morrison would sing a version of ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’ during his concerts.
“I feel like he’d be the first one to say ‘what a great result’,” she added.
Vicki, from Palmerston North, described the version by Katie Ashby and Dominic Ferris as ‘wonderful’.
She got in touch with Katie and Dominic via Dame Vera Lynn’s PA Susan Fleet and was ‘thrilled and honoured’ when the duo wanted to record the song.
“There were moments where I felt almost as if Dame Vera Lynn was singing my own song back to me,” said Vicki, adding that Katie’s voice has the emotional depth that the piece requires.
“It’s heartfelt and it’s genuine and it’s simple,” said Vicki, praising the recording’s uncluttered nature.
Vicki was in contact with Katie and Dominic throughout the recording process too, as they sent audio clips via messaging services to get Vicki’s input.
“They have just been so inclusive,” she said.
“For someone who’s written a song to have that respect from the artist has been fantastic.”
Vicki, who works as a piano teacher and musician, first met Dame Vera in 2015 after starting a tribute show to her, which she has performed in New Zealand and Sussex.
Sadly, she has not been able to do live shows during the Covid-19 pandemic because many of her concerts had been in retirement villages, the first places to go into lockdown.
But, Vicki said, she did perform a concert from her home and send it out over the internet.
She also said she is looking forward to more live shows in the future when she is allowed.
“I know what it means to all the people that I perform the concerts for around New Zealand,” said Vicki.
“Dame Vera’s legacy is a way of ensuring that not only we don’t forget that generation, but that we pass it on to future generations.”
The last time Vicki saw Dame Vera in person was in January 2020 during the unveiling of her portrait at the Royal Albert Hall.
“Then I flew home and we all went into lockdown and that was that,” she said.
Vicki had met Dame Vera several times since 2015 and whenever she came over to the UK she would talk to her about her memories.
“This last time was really special because I had a funny feeling we were running out of time,” she added.
Vicki does not know when she will be able to come to the UK but says she will come here when she can.
She feels that Dame Vera’s music has taken on a new significance during the pandemic and that people have held onto the relevance of ‘We’ll Meet Again’ in particular with even the Queen quoting it in a speech to Britain last year.
“Dame Vera is absolutely relevant and we’ve just got to keep her being relevant,” said Vicki.
“That’s what Katie and the D-Day Darlings are doing over there in a very vibrant way.”
Yorkshire-born Katie Ashby said: “There are no words to describe the pride I feel being able to record and perform these beautiful songs in honour of my biggest inspiration.”
She said she loved the music of Dame Vera Lynn so much that she formed the D-Day Darlings to pay homage to the era, forming strong links with the military and the Royal British Legion in the process.
In 2018 her group reached the live finals of Britain’s Got Talent, securing them a two-album record deal with Sony Music.
“The song ‘Irreplaceable’ perfectly describes how we all feel about Dame Vera and it unites the world in our love and appreciation for her,” said Katie.
People can find out more about the song and make a donation to the Dame Vera Lynn Memorial Statue here.