Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Several years ago after Ray Charles died, one of his albums reached No. 1 on the national charts.

Somewhere along the way, I heard or read that if Ray had lived to see his LP hit No. 1 he would have been the oldest living person to accomplish that.

Since Brother Ray didn't quite make it, who is the artist holding this distinction?
—Richie Johansson, York, Pa.

DEAR RICHIE: Yours is an interesting question; however, in Ray's case the scenario you suggest may not have occurred had he lived.

Charles died of liver failure, June 10, 2004, and in a little less than three months “Genius Loves Company” (Concord 2248) entered the charts.

Had Ray lived at least until March 5, 2005, when this collection of a dozen duets reached No. 1, he would have been 74 — and the oldest living artist topping the album charts.

Still, sales of “Genius Loves Company,” as well as two other Top 10 compilations: “The Very Best of Ray Charles” (Rhino 79822) and “Ray Charles Anthology” (Rhino 75759), were clearly fueled by Ray's passing.

So the reigning chart-topping senior citizen is Bob Dylan, who, for one week earlier this year (May 9-16), held the No. 1 position with “Together Through Life” — not just in the U.S., but in at least 18 countries spanning the globe.

Dylan was 67 during his week at the top, though he turned 68 a mere eight days later (May 24). By then, his album dropped to No. 5 after holding the top spot for just one week.

Bob Dylan has many enduring claims to fame; however, he wore this fleeting crown for just four months.

On September 19, in a surprise as shocking as anything the music world has seen, “We'll Meet Again - The Very Best of Vera Lynn” took over the No. 1 spot in the UK.

Though a British icon, Vera Lynn is also well known in the USA, with several stateside hits to her credit, from as early as 1948 (“You Can't Be True Dear”) through '67 (“It Hurts to Say Goodbye”), including the top-selling record of the summer of 1952, “Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart.”

Inconceivably, the 23-track “We'll Meet Again - The Very Best of Vera Lynn” CD does not include her worldwide smash, “Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart.” Arrgh! How is her most famous song not among her “very best”?

Oh yeah, my favorite Vera Lynn tune, “It Hurts to Say Goodbye” (1967) isn't on that “Best Of” album either.

To be clear, I am not confusing “We'll Meet Again” with “Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart,” simply because the latter makes prominent use of the line “we'll meet again.” They are two completely different recordings.

Born March 20, 1917, this spry 92-year-old sitting atop the albums chart could easily have a son older than Bob Dylan, now with runner-up status in Britain, but not the U.S. Vera's album has yet to be issued here.

In 1975, long before compact discs and a return to chart supremacy, knighthood called and Vera was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, by Sovereign of the Order, Queen Elizabeth II.

As for Dame Vera Lynn's recent sales achievement, it is not likely to be topped by anyone, unless Bob Dylan is both alive and on the charts in 2033, or later.

IZ ZAT SO? In 1952, Vera Lynn's “Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart” made history on both sides of the Atlantic.

Here, Vera became the first British born singer to top the American charts. Meanwhile, in her homeland, she was the only Brit in Britain's Top 10!

Lynn is also the first person ever to have more than one single in the UK Top 10, a somewhat common event years later for acts like Elvis and the Beatles.

Vera's 57-year chart span (1952-2009), from first appearance to most recent, is one more accomplishment not likely to ever be equaled.

Considering Vera's popularity began in 1935, the only reason Lynn's span isn't 74 years is that Britain did not have a top hits survey until the New Musical Express debuted, November 12, 1952.

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