Saturday, 2 June 2012

Sepia Saturday 128; Bitter - Sweet Lilli Marlene;

Lili Marlene - English version

Underneath the lantern by the barrack gate,
Darling I remember the way you used to wait;
'Twas there that you whispered tenderly,
That you lov'd me, you'd always be,
My Lilli of the lamplight,
My own Lilli Marlene.

Time would come for roll call time for us to part
Darling I'd caress you and press you to my heart.
And there 'neath that far off lantern light
I'd hold you tight we'd kiss goodnight,
My Lillie of the lamplight,
My own Lilli Marlene.

Orders came for sailing somewhere over there,
All confined to barracks was more than I could bear;
I knew you were waiting in the street,
I heard your feet, but could not meet,
My Lillie of the lamplight,
My own Lilli Marlene.

Resting in a billet just behind the line
Even tho' we're parted your lips are close to mine,
You wait where that lantern softly gleams
Your sweet face seems to haunt my dreams,
My Lillie of the lamplight,
My own Lilli Marlene.

Hans Leip and Norbert Shultz and Tommie Connor

"Lili Marlene", is a German love song which became popular during World War II.
Written in 1915 during World War I, the poem was published under the title "Das Lied eines jungen Soldaten auf der Wacht" (German for "The Song of a Young Soldier on Watch") in 1937, and was first recorded by Lale Andersen in 1939 under the title "Das Mädchen unter der Laterne" ("The Girl under the Lantern").

While on leave in Vienna, a lieutenant working at the station was asked to collect some records for broadcast. Amongst the pile of second-hand records from the Reich radio station was the little known two-year-old song "Lili Marlene" sung by Lale Andersen, which up till then had barely sold around 700 copies. For lack of other recordings, Radio Belgrade played the song frequently.
Its popularity quickly grew. Soldiers stationed around the Mediterranean, including both German Afrika Korps and British Eighth Army troops, regularly tuned in to hear it.
Many Allied soldiers made a point of listening to it at the end of the day. For example, in his memoir Eastern Approaches, Fitzroy Maclean describes the song's effect in the spring of 1942 during the Western Desert Campaign: "Husky, sensuous, nostalgic, sugar-sweet, her voice seemed to reach out to you, as she lingered over the catchy tune, the sickly sentimental words. Belgrade...The continent of Europe seemed a long way away. I wondered when I would see it again and what it would be like by the time we got there."

Nor did it end there. The next year, parachuted into the Yugoslav guerrilla war, Maclean wrote: "Sometimes at night, before going to sleep, we would turn on our receiving set and listen to Radio Belgrade. For months now, the flower of the Africa Corps had been languishing behind the barbed wire of Allied prison camps. But still, punctually at ten o'clock, came Lale Andersen singing their special song, with the same unvarying, heart-rending sweetness that we knew so well from the desert.  Belgrade was still remote. But, now that we ourselves were in Yugoslavia, it had acquired a new significance for us. It had become our ultimate goal, which Lili Marlene and her nostalgic little tune seemed somehow to symbolize. 'When we get to Belgrade...' we would say.
In the autumn of 1944, the liberation of Belgrade seemed not far away. "Then, at ten o'clock, loud and clear, Radio Belgrade; Lili Marlene, sweet,

insidious, melancholy. 'Not much longer now,' we would say, as we switched it off. It was a stock joke but one that at last began to look like coming true." As the Red Army was advancing on Belgrade, he reflected again on the song. "At Valjevo, as at so many other places, in the desert, in Bosnia, in Italy, Dalmatia, and Serbia, we would tune our wireless sets in the evening to Radio Belgrade, and night after night, always at the same time, would come, throbbing lingeringly over the ether, the cheap, sugary and almost painfully nostalgic melody, the sex-laden, intimate, heart-rending accents of Lili Marlene. 'Not gone yet,' we would say to each other. 'I wonder if we'll find her when we get there.' Then one evening at the accustomed time there was silence. 'Gone away,' we said.".

Based on a German poem of 1915, this song became the favorite of troops of every tongue and nation during the Second World War, both in translation and in the original German. A curious example of song transcending the hatreds of war, American troops particularly liked Lily Marlene as sung by the German-born actress and singer, Marlene Dietrich

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  1. I must admit I was totally uninspired by this week's SS prompt, but I'm enjoying my visits around blogland because everyone has such interesting photos and stories and history. This has been wonderful! Your last observation about the song transcending the hatred between countries is just an amazing revelation.

  2. What a lovely song. I can see why the men tuned in to hear it every night.
    It's funny that you and I both posted a Marlene Dietrich song this week. It was nice that they were two different ones.

  3. Lovely! One of the few times that German sounds so beautiful.....she was a stunning woman as well!

  4. The story behind the record - an interesting idea, thank you.

  5. The song and her voice is beautiful, even though I couldn't understand the words (I'm happy that you printed them out for us.) I enjoyed the history lesson also, and was struck by how much one song meant to so many soldiers world wide.

    Excellent post, Tatiana.

    Kathy M.

  6. Great song and an all time favourite of mine.

  7. I enjoyed learning about that song. It was quite a different experience reading it in English versus listening to it in German. I don't know German, and the song sounded like a lullaby to me.

  8. Lovely song - thanks for including the lyrics in English. Enjoyed the story behind the song too. I'm learning so much this week at Sepia Saturday!

  9. I know the song well, resting gently in the fold of my memory as I often heard it at Man and his world (expo '67, und so forth...) where my parents would enjoy resting and eating and obviously drinking at the local biergarten, where musicians and a singer would entertain us. Lilli Marlene was a must in their repertoire and locals and tourists would gather around to sing it together.
    I've much appreciated the angle you took here.
    Thanx 4 sharing this with us!!

  10. What a comfort this lovely song must have been to all those lonely soldiers. We sometimes forget how different it was for soldiers then as compared to now, they didn't have email, computers and cell phones, only the rare occasional letter from home so this was sometimes all they had to look forward to.