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"Lili Marleen" (also spelled "Lili Marlen'", "Lilli Marlene", "Lily Marlene", "Lili Marlène" among others) is a German love song that became popular during World War II throughout Europe and the Mediterranean among both Axis and Allied troops. Written in 1915 as a poem, the song was published in 1937 and was first recorded by Lale Andersen in 1939 as "Das Mädchen unter der Laterne" ("The Girl under the Lantern").
The words were written in 1915 as a poem of three verses by Hans Leip (1893–1983), a school teacher from Hamburg who had been conscripted into the Imperial German Army. Leip reportedly combined the nickname of his friend's girlfriend, Lili, with the name of another friend, Marleen, who was a nurse. The poem was later published in 1937 as "Das Lied eines jungen Soldaten auf der Wacht" ("The Song of a Young Soldier on Watch"), with two further verses added.
It was set to music by Norbert Schultze in 1938 and recorded by Lale Andersen for the first time in 1939. In early 1942 she recorded the song in English, the lyrics translated by Norman Baillie-Stewart, a turncoat former British army officer working for German propaganda .
In 1944, the Morale Operations Branch of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) initiated the Muzak Project, musical propaganda broadcasts designed to demoralize enemy soldiers. Marlene Dietrich, the only performer who was told her recordings would be for OSS use, recorded a number of songs in German for the project, including "Lili Marleen". Dietrich also performed "Lili Marlene", as well as many other songs, live in Europe for Allied troops, often on rickety, makeshift stages. "Lili Marleen" became a massive success, specifically on the German language OSS MO radio station Soldatensender, where it became the station's theme song. After its warm reception by the troops in Europe, the song was re-recorded and released, with the spelling "Lili Marlene" after her name, Marlene, with Charles Magnante on the accordion, citing him as the "orchestra director" for both it and the single's B-side, "Symphonie", sung in French. The single was released by Decca Records in 1945. The original OSS recording of "Lili Marleen" remains unissued. (Wikipedia)