I’ll Remember You: The D-Day Darlings VE Day Celebration Edition
Release Date: March 26, 2020 (Original version released on November 9, 2018)
Record Label: Sony Music UK
On Friday, November 9, 2018, Sony Records released I’ll Remember You: The D-Day Darlings, the recording debut of The D-Day Darlings, a British “wartime choir” of nine women who perform songs that were popular in Great Britain during the Second World War. Billed as Katie Ashby, Emily-Jane Brooks, Nichola Roberts, Alexandra Hans, Kylie Bates, Amy, Emily Louise, Jessica Hudson, and Louise Kindsvator, this ennead (or nonet) first became prominent during the 12th season – or, as they say in Europe, “series” – of Simon Cowell’s Britain’s Got Talent (BGT) show on ITV.
Per the D-Day Darlings web page on the UK SONY website:
The group was formed 10 years ago by founder and lead singer Katie Ashby after she recognised the importance of this music and how it resonates with people like no other genre of music. Katie says, “To see how these songs affect people and how the melody and lyrics evoke such memories was truly eye-opening for me. It was this that made me want to build a career singing these timeless songs and bring back memories for so many people.”
The Darlings, originally formed as a trio, became an overnight success and the group’s popularity grew with young and old alike, so more Darlings were signed to join to the group, creating an army of girls to continue their mission of keeping the wartime spirit alive and into the new generation.
On BGT, the Darlings made it all the way to the final of Series 12, earning praise from the judges, including show creator Simon Cowell, with a rousing performance of White Cliffs of Dover based on the original version by the late Vera Lynn. Cowell said, referring to the veterans of World War II in Britain and elsewhere, “you’ve given these men the opportunity to be appreciated for what they’ve done.”
Although they didn’t win the BGT top vote, the Darlings’ seventh place standing in the public vote was impressive, and the Darlings signed a record deal with Sony; I’ll Remember You – so named for an original song composed in the style of a 1940s ballad – was released in November of 2018.
Two years later, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE Day), Sony reissued an updated, expanded (by four tracks) edition of I’ll Remember You. Tagged – naturally enough, as the VE Celebration Edition) this version has 16 tracks, all but one of which were popular standards composed during the “Keep Calm & Carry On” years between September 1939 and May 1945.
Track List (2020 VE Celebration Edition)
1. We’ll Meet Again [2020 Version] 03:24
2. (There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) White Cliffs of Dover 02:46
3. Somewhere Over the Rainbow 02:47
4. Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else but Me) 02:47
5. Keep the Home Fires Burning 04:07
6. Run Rabbit Run 3:25
7. Dam Busters 03:01
8. Comin’ in on a Wing and a Prayer 03:02
9. Mary 03:36
10.Pack Up Your Troubles/It’s a Long Way to Tipperary 02:49
11. Rule Britannia/Land of Hope and Glory 03:13
12. I’ll Remember You 03:56
13. Sweetheart 03:23
14. When You Wish Upon a Star 03:03
15. Now Is the Hour 02:52
16. Bless ‘Em All/Hang Out the Washing on the Siegfried Line/Kiss Me Goodnight Sgt Major 04:56
Produced by Tim Woodcock (Little Mix, John Newman, The Wanted), the album consists of a range of iconic wartime classics including ‘White Cliffs of Dover’, ‘We’ll Meet Again’ and two brand new songs ‘I’ll Remember You’ and ‘Mary’, a tribute to Mary Ellis, the last female spitfire pilot who passed away in July 2018.
Lead singer of The D-Day Darlings, Katie Ashby, founded the group in 2008 with the intention of invoking and celebrating the true spirit of the wartime. Originally a trio, The D-Day Darlings has since grown to a 9-piece group, proudly supported by Dame Vera Lynn.
Katie Ashby said, “this centenary year was the perfect time to audition for BGT, to be able to perform this iconic music on such a huge platform in honour of our heroes, including our own grandparents, was incredible. Our mission is to keep the wartime spirit alive and into the new generation. Collaborating with Tim Woodcock was an exciting step to help me achieve this musically. We’ve given the songs a new injection of life, while still retaining the legacy of their original sound. We are thrilled to be signed to Sony Music and we are dedicating our debut album to all those who fought for our freedom.”
I was born in 1963, two months shy of the 18th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day. Most of the songs in I’ll Remember You were already over 20 years old – Over the Rainbow was introduced in 1939 as a musical number in The Wizard of Oz, and When You Wish Upon a Star, whose iconic first measure is the “Walt Disney” theme, was written for 1940’s Pinocchio, so even though a few of these tracks were “childhood” songs I heard when I was little, they were not my generation’s songs but rather belonged to my parents and their contemporaries.
And yet, because I’ve been fascinated by history – especially military history, and specifically World War II history – since I was six years old, I feel that songs like We’ll Meet Again, White Cliffs of Dover, Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree, Comin’ In on a Wing and a Prayer, and Keep the Home Fires Burning speak to me deeply and resonate emotionally more than, say, such songs of my adolescence as Stayin’ Alive, Love Stinks, or Mr. Roboto.
Living in America and not being a fan of singing competition shows such as American Idol, The Voice, or even the multi-category talent shows like America’s Got Talent and its British inspiration/mothership show, Britain’s Got Talent, I had no idea that The D-Day Darlings existed.
That is, until I was looking on YouTube for some romantic songs from the World War II era performed by cover artists. I believe – I can’t remember now, really – that I was looking for a version of We’ll Meet Again that wasn’t sung by either Dame Vera Lynn (who died in June of 2020 at the age of 103, not long after the release of the VE Celebration Edition of I’ll Remember You: The D-Day Darlings) or Peggy Lee (the American vocalist who covered We’ll Meet Again in 1945).
There were, in fact, various music videos with covers of this song – which Stanley Kubrick made famous as the ironic musical backdrop to the visuals at the end of 1964’s Dr. Strangelove – performed by “tribute” artists who wore 1940s-era military-looking outfits and sang in the same style as Vera herself.
And here’s the late Vera Lynn singing (There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover.
Although I don’t shun popular music from my lifetime – I am a fan of Billy Joel, John Denver, The Beatles, and Eric Carmen, for instance – and I try to have variety in my playlist, my musical tastes skew more toward music from the past.
Part of it, as I said earlier, is because I read a lot of books and watch many documentary films about World War II, and because many filmmakers often incorporate instrumental music and songs from the 1930s and 1940s in the soundtracks of The World at War (1973) and The War (2007), songs such as Bless ‘em All, Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree, and Keep the Home Fires Burning became an integral part of the soundtrack of my life.
The biggest reason, though, is that I think the music of my parents’ generation is much better aesthetically and packs more sentimentality and melodious beauty than more modern, “hipper” styles. I tend to have more of an emotional response to music written in “old school” styles – even if it is written today – than I do to songs written for today’s Top 40 or Hot 100 playlists.
I’ll Remember You – which is also the title of one of the three 21st Century songs in the track listing – is a lovely tribute to not just the millions of men and women who served in the Allied forces during the Second World War, but also to the composers, lyricists, and singers (especially the Darlings’ founder Katie Ashby’s inspiration, Vera Lynn) who created the iconic songs that lifted spirits and gave hope to the free world during one of modern history’s darkest era.
Every one of the 16 tracks, including the three original tracks Mary, Sweetheart and I’ll Remember You, are rendered in the style of WWII Big Band/patriotic show-stopping/morale boosting songs that were heard live in dance halls in London, Coventry, Dover, Southampton, Bristol, Liverpool, and other British cities during the war or over the airwaves via the BBC. The arrangements and orchestrations are true to the period, and the performances by the nine singers – supplemented in When You Wish Upon a Star by the D-Day Juniors – are pitch-perfect and nostalgia-evoking.
If you are a fan of music from the World War II era and want to see how contemporary tribute artists are covering the classic songs that helped the Allies beat the Axis, or if you are just getting to know the Big Band/Standards genre, I’ll Remember You: The D-Day Darlings is bound to please you. I heartily recommend this album.