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LRDG Correspondence


Hey guys, Kevin here (heavy guy from Arizona chapter). I've taken a principal job in Arizona and will start in a week. I don't have to maintain two homes and perhaps will have a bit more disposable income in the near future and I can get over to a couple shows again. I would like very much to see you and Rick again. The reason I wrote apart from letting you know what's going on is what appears to me to be an error on the web page.

With reference to Marlene Dietrich, She is probably the best known singer of Lili Marlene to we Americans. In Germany however... She started over there as a cabaret singer and movie actress. She was established in the US by the time the Nazi's came to power. The Nazi's asked here to return to Germany and she responded by becoming a US citizen. She was not a favorite of official Germany. Lili Marlene is an extremely important song to come out of the North African campaign. It was used by a radio station (Nazi controlled) in Austria (I think) as a signoff in the early days of German involvement in North Africa. I can't recall the singer but I seem to recall she was Austrian and the recording was a couple years old and not popular when released. The legion is that it record was one of three found at the radio station (basement) when the German Army moved in. I believe it was Goebels that ordered the song not played as he found it to be too melancholy (he wanted inspiring music). By that time it had become too popular with the soldiers. The British also tuned into German broadcasts and they also found that the song struck a chord. Some officers were frustrated with their men sing German songs (in German) and English words were written (Two different versions seemed to have been popular. Both were rather similar but not the same.) After the Americans got to Africa a third English language version was written (back in the US) and recorded. This is the version Dietrich sings. She did sing this song for American troops during the war.

Some other information: The song was originally a poem written by a German soldier in WWI. The name is a combination of two women he knew. the original poem and to a certain degree the WWII era German version is more "mystic" than the English language ones. In the original it was suggested that the soldier was going to die in battle but return to his love where she would be waiting by the lantern by the barracks. Also the turn for the original version was not the same as the one we know from WWII. Somewhere I have a tape of the author singing the original. The song was sung by most forces is the war including the Russians (I've never seen a translation of their version but I understand it tended to be a bit more "earthy" than the English language versions) The French did a translation and I have found reference to Edith Piaf suionguing it but have never seen a recording. The only French recording I have seen is by Suzy Soldat (got to be a stage name?) I've never felt like I wanted to cut loose with the $18 they want for the CD just to hear it. They were apparently a bunch of homegrown versions most of which you could not sing for your mother including one sung by American occupation troops in Germany which dealt with a prostitute and a chocolate bar. In Italy the allied troops adapted the tune to a song called "D-Day Dodgers", after someone in England (I forget who) suggested the troops in Italy got off easy not having to invade France. All of this information is your fault of course. As you got me more interested in the Brits in North Africa I felt like one needed to know about the song and I went looking for a recording. The first recording I found (several months later, as I wasn't sure what I was looking for) was the soundtrack from the Blue Angel, a Dietrich movie. I have since acquired eight or ten different recordings include four from Dietrich. I also have a Xerox of a book written on the song. As I am moving as I suggested earlier all that stuff is packed or I could give you a couple more names.

Anyway, I like the idea of playing Lili Marlene when the truck is displayed, especially the German version. I don't have audio capabilities on my computer but my guess is whoever is responsible for the recordings lifted them from "The Cosmopolitan Marlene Dietrich" CD. I am very amused by another cut on that CD - "Surrey With the Fringe on Top" sung in German. thanks for sending the newsletter. I really enjoy them and I think of you guys often. I'm still a fan of the LRDG and your efforts with the truck. When I get back to Arizona next week I will drop the E-mail address on this and use Say hi to Rick for me.  

Kevin Canham

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