fbpx
Home » blog » Song Focus: Dame Vera Lynn, Peter Sellers, Slim Pickens and Johnny Cash Will Meet Again
Country Historical

Song Focus: Dame Vera Lynn, Peter Sellers, Slim Pickens and Johnny Cash Will Meet Again

The song “We’ll Meet Again” has turned up many times. Three instances are particularly significant and memorable.

The song was written by Hughie Charles and Ross Parker and sung by Dame Vera Lynn (who now is 100 years old) in 1939. It evokes a world that was about to embark on a horrific war. The people leaving from the ports and train stations knew that there was a good chance that they would die or be grievously injured. They also knew that the Nazis were close to winning. Singing about smiling through and meeting again some sunny day is poignant when you think about the darkness and evil that they were up against, and where the world was headed if they failed.

It’s a song about faith and defiance. Here are the lyrics:

We’ll meet again
Don’t know where
Don’t know when
But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day
Keep smiling through
Just like you always do
‘Till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away

So will you please say hello
To the folks that I know
Tell them I won’t be long
They’ll be happy to know
That as you saw me go
I was singing this song

We’ll meet again
Don’t know where
Don’t know when
But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day

We’ll meet again
Don’t know where
Don’t know when
But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day
Keep smiling through
Just like you always do
‘Til the blue skies
Drive the dark clouds far away
So will you please say hello
To the folks that I know
Tell them it won’t be long
They’ll be happy to know
That as you saw me go
I was singin’ this song

We’ll meet again
Don’t know where
Don’t know when
But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day

The second time and third time that the song pops up prominently its meaning is spun around a bit. Both its use at the end of “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” and as the final cut on the last Johnny Cash album released during his lifetime suggest that the message is that we’ll meet again…but not in this life.

“We’ll Meet Again” is among the most famous of songs to emerge from World War II. Its strength is its simplicity: We’ll get through this awful experience and have a beer after. More broadly, it’s both a no-brainer and important to realize that music is deeply related to the events they depict and the times during which they are written. Art is history. Click here or on the image for music from the war at Amazon or click here for a selection from iTunes.
The use in Dr. Strangelove is great, but I always found it a bit unfortunate that it stole the thunder of the song. Vera Lynn, not Slim Pickens, should be most closely associated with “We’ll Meet Again.” Instead of a song that that perfectly captures the spirit that drove the heroic resistance to the Nazis by the British, “We’ll Meet Again” was hijacked for what, in the final analysis, is just a movie. And a dark one at that.

Then comes Johnny Cash. Near the end of his life, Cash made a series of record with hip hop producer Rick Rubin. “We’ll Meet Again” ends “American IV: The Man Comes Around.”

It was brilliant to end the album in that way. Cash was a deeply religious man. The first song on the album — the title track — describes judgement day. The man coming around is God, and he means business. This rather frightening and apocalyptic prospect is bookended by “We’ll Meet Again,” which suggests that perhaps there is hope for reunion with loved ones after the judgement.

The subtext of the album is that Cash was ill and nearing the end. What is described as “the whole Cash gang” sings the refrain. His family, perhaps, is saying goodbye and that they will seem him in heaven. Of course I don’t know, but I bet that that choosing to cover the song and its placement on the album were done with great care. It’s great that Johnny Cash was able to sing himself off stage.

Above is Vera Lynn singing the song at what may be an RAF reunion. Below is Slim Pickens headed to his last roundup. Here is the Cash version.

Sign Up for TDMB Daily Email Blasts

TDMB offers daily one-video email blasts. A different genre each day of the week. They are quick hits: Just great music and a bit of context.

Sign up below or, for more info, click here.

Here’s What’s Here

The Daily Music Break explores every genre of music, from hip hop to opera. It's simple: Boundaries are dumb. It's all good. Here is more about the site and here is our index:

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

--Radiohead to ZZ Top (R to Z)

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

🎼🎺🎻🎹🎷🎶🎵


What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

🎼🎺🎻🎹🎷🎶🎵

The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

Top