On Friday (8th May) a variety of celebrations are being held – mostly behind closed doors thanks to the pandemic – ranging from ‘stay at home’ parties to a concert with no audience in the Royal Albert Hall.
If you’re looking to hold your own little event you may be wondering what popular music, tunes of the time, or classic songs would be appropriate to play to mark VE Day – the day WW2 ended.
Music can bring back memories, give us a sense of nostalgia and throw us right into the mood for a party or a more reflective celebration.
Here are a few songs for your VE Day playlist – whatever the style of your event.
Absolute Radio’s 1940 station
The radio station launched a ‘pop up’ 1940s-themed station to mark VE Day across the country. You can tune in throughout the day to hear the tunes of the time.
Dame Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again
Dame Vera Lynn is a sign of hope thanks to her wartime tunes – and she’s doing a good job during the current pandemic to rally our spirits. It’s fitting that in the VE Day concert at the Royal Albert Hall we’ll all be asked to singalong to We’ll Meet Again in a sign of community. Lynn released the song again with Katherine Jenkins recently to raise money for the NHS. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more uplifting song – and it was often played on the radio during wartime broadcasts to lift people’s spirits.
Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony
Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony became a symbol for the Allied Forces during the war. We all recognise it as soon as we hear that four-note intro. Fun fact: the short-short-short-long pattern matched the Morse code to the letter ‘V’ for victory, a hand gesture oft used by Winston Churchill.
Doris Day, A Sentimental Journey
Released at the end of WW2 in Europe, Doris Day’s A Sentimental Journey became an unofficial anthem of those returning home. It hit No 1 in 1945 and stayed around the US Billboard chart for 23 weeks.
The Dam Busters Theme
The Dam Busters Theme or March became a hit at the time as it featured in the British war film in 1955 – of course, named The Dam Busters. Eric Coates score is often linked to flypasts in the UK and is often played during them.
Judy Garland’s Somewhere Over the Rainbow
While it’s not war-related, Somewhere Over the Rainbow is a haunting tune written by Harold Arlen for The Wizard of Oz, released in 1939. It’s very of the time, but hopeful in its lyrics and feel, making it a fitting play for VE Day.
Dame Vera Lynn’s White Cliffs of Dover
Of course, we were going to add more than one Dame Vera Lynn on here! The White Cliffs of Dover may not be We’ll Meet Again (which resonates strongly right now), but it’s sincere, hopeful lyrics make it a good song to listen to on VE Day. It promises good will eventually come.
Billie Holiday, I’ll Be Seeing You
Another popular song of the time Billie Holiday’s I’ll Be Seeing You became a hit in 1944.
Irving Berlin’s This is the Army, Mr Jones
More comedic in tone, the song comes from This is the Army, a film directed by Michael Curtiz and starring George Murphy. The comedy film aimed to boost morale – and did just that.
VE Day 75: The People’s Celebration
Ok, we know this isn’t a song, but the VE Day Concert is packed full of musical performances from the Royal Albert Hall. The full line-up for The People’s Celebration will include Katherine Jenkins, Adrian Lester, Anton Du Beke, Beverley Knight, Helen George, Sharon D Clarke, Shane Richie and Emma Barton. Sophie Raworth presents the event put on by the BBC and the Royal British Legion in thanks to the veterans. It all kicks off at 8pm and ends around 9pm with the nation singing We’ll Meet Again together.