Is there anyone here who remembers Vera Lynn?  ›To think in QR mode› Granma
Roger Waters and Vera Lynn, two counter-hegemonic artists. Photo: Making Fine Art America

“We will see each other again / I don’t know where, I don’t know when / but I know we’ll see each other again one sunny day,” Vera Lynn sang to British troops during World War II. His popularity was such, as a voice of encouragement to the soldiers who fought against the fascist enemy, that they called him the sweetheart of the armed forces. The song titled We’ll meet again became an anthem for all, “illuminating the darkest hours of the British resistance.” She was married to Harry Lewis, a Jewish musician who played clarinet and saxophone in Ambrose’s orchestra, where Vera entered in 1937 as a singer. Lewis fought in the British Air Forces during the war. Bert Ambrose was also Jewish, of Polish descent and, together with Vera, organized fund-raising sessions to finance the escape of Jewish children from Nazi Germany.

Vera was born as Vera Margaret Welch in a London working-class neighborhood one year after the end of World War I. She took her stage name from her grandmother’s maiden name. During the war, on a radio program, Sincerely Yours, he sang excerpts from letters from relatives and loved ones to the soldiers at the front. His friend, comedian Harry Secombe, joked that Churchill had not defeated the Nazis. Vera sang them until her death. As a result of her popularity, she was attacked for, according to her critics, “undermining the morale of the soldiers” with her over-sentimental voice and her Cockney accent, the dialect of the working-class and London slums. Vera responded to the criticism by emphasizing that “it is the millions of Cockney who are fighting in this war.”

Despite being the first British artist to have a number one hit on the US charts in 1952, the BBC did not hire her for several years after the war, considering her style to be “out of fashion. ». However, by 1955, the BBC brought it back on the newly released commercial television and its success was robust enough to withstand the invasion of Rock and roll and the arrival of the Beatles in the 1960s. There is a version of Fool on the Hill sung by Vera.

Although not always obvious, British rock inherits a lot from all those musical traditions that preceded it. Not always as a direct musical influence, sometimes just as a general spirit of the times. In its evolution, rock was not a break that fell out of nowhere, but rather landed in many different sources of origin. Understanding that past is that it is understood that, in its development, British rock had the early tendency to drift towards more elaborate forms of music with obvious links to concert music, long works where the songs were seen as part of an ensemble. . Progressive rock is a British invention that took rock out of the path of the decayed empire, to take it to more transcendent creative paths. Disagreeing with his North American counterpart, he gave the musical anecdote a musical and literary context in which to feel great. For some, Sgt peppers lonely heart club band is the first genuine progressive rock album in history.

It is in this context where bands, now legendary, such as Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Genesis, Yes, Jethro Tull, King Crimson and Mike Oldfield were born, which incorporated a musical elaboration with clear classical influences in their way of playing. On the other side of the ocean, groups like Kansas, Rush and Frank Zappa, especially the former, had their progressive stages with a technical obsession for instruments and extreme care in the sound they produced. But in the United States they did not reach the mainstream. Never mass audiences, progressive rock became the elite of a set of genres grouped under the label of rock. Perhaps this never had a more sublime period.

Three years before Reagan came to power opening the doors to the conservative wave whose echoes continue to this day, Roger Waters, singer of the group that defines by itself one type, Pink Floyd, in 1978, composed, for the album The Wall , the song Vera. In the film of the same name to the album, Pink, disillusioned, remembers Vera Lynn while watching the movie The Battle of Britain on television. A short song on one of the last concept albums of an era – it barely lasts a little over a minute.

If the Reagan era inaugurated neoliberalism as a global economic and political counteroffensive to state monopoly capitalism, its reflection in music was overwhelming. mtv was the catwalk where the results of Ford’s production line taken to the music industry were exhibited. The mainstream video clip ended up destroying the piece of music, as Walt Disney ends up cutting off the imagination of infants, by taking away the right to make their own image of the heroes and heroines of children’s stories, and forcing chewy and, more importantly, repetitive stereotypes. with just costume changes. With the tyranny of the video clip, long and organic works were finished to elevate the anecdote, now not only musical, but visual, to its coronation. Riding on a well-earned prestige, Robert Plant’s organic ease on stage was replaced with the imposture of pseudo-clowns disguised as kabuki who neither understood Japanese theater, nor did they understand rock as an extra-musical form of counter-hegemony.

Glamor went to rock what record became to soul. It was not a musical form within the genre, but a false way of assuming the fact that it went beyond the merely musical. It was the revenge of the hegemony of capital on the counter-hegemonic scare of the 60s and part of the 70s. The fraud of the domesticated beast.

By the second half of the 1980s, glamor rock had swept the progressive off the rock music scene. The great works that tried with variable success to go beyond the limitations of the more or less happy piece, to make albums as unique concepts from the first to the last title, had been replaced by sequins aspiring to the great scene. Through the glamor wedge, the hosts of the canning industry mercilessly entered, destroying what had been carefully built without condescension and the refusal to serve pasture for complacent audiences. The massacre was almost total: Genesis ended up being Phil Collins; elp was reincarnated in Asia and the Heat of the moment was not enough to revive the deceased; Yes was shipwrecked in Owners of a Lonely Heart; California became If you leave now, seeming to implore its followers not to abandon them for prostitution. The final countdown to what they all represented was given to them by Europe.

It could be argued that progressive rock was a victim of itself, exhausting itself in its grandeur, oligophrenically seeking almost mystical transcendence in each effort, which ended up exhausting the musicians and listeners. But there is much more to this story than the exclusively musical. We can give it all the turns we want, but the market ends up being the enemy of art in the long run.

Vera died on June 18, 2020 at the age of 103, four months before, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. In the midst of it, just a few months ago, like so many musicians reduced to their homes, Roger Waters took up the instruments, sought out remote accompaniments and recorded an almost unplugged session of music. The old man, with acoustic guitar. Despite being previous works, some by Pink Floyd and others by others, the result is a session that recalls those times when rock was about doing things that did not fit in paper wrappers like McDonald’s. In appearance a tribute of nostalgia, but that at the end of We shall overcome the Pete Seeger becomes a song of hope, like the one Vera sang to the soldiers determined to defeat fascism and defend their homeland.

The second piece in the session is Vera, sung in such a way that your throat tightens: ‘Is there anyone here who remembers Vera Lynn? / remember how I said / we will meet again / a sunny day / Vera, Vera / What has become of you? ».

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