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"Lili Marleen" (also known as "Lili Marlen", "Lilli Marlene", "Lily Marlene", "Lili Marlène" and similar variants) is a German love song which became popular during World War IIwith soldiers of both sides.

Written as a poem in 1915, during World War I, it 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").

Following the Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941, Radio Belgrade became Soldatensender Belgrad and played the song frequently to entertain the German armed forceswithin its reach. It became popular throughout Europe and the Mediterranean among both Axis and Allied troops.



  • 1 Creation
  • 2 Exposure and reception
  • 3 Marlene Dietrich version
    • 3.1 Track listings
      • 3.1.1 English version
      • 3.1.2 German version
    • 3.2 Personnel
  • 4 Connie Francis version
    • 4.1 Background
    • 4.2 Track listing
    • 4.3 Personnel
    • 4.4 Chart performance
  • 5 Amanda Lear version
    • 5.1 Track listing
    • 5.2 Chart performance
  • 6 Other versions
  • 7 Other interpretations
  • 8 References
  • 9 Further reading
  • 10 Recordings
  • 11 External links


The words were written in 1915 during World War I by Hans Leip (1893–1983), a school teacher from Hamburg who had been conscripted into the Imperial German Army.[1] Leip reportedly combined the nickname of his friends girlfriend, Lili, with the first name of another female friend, Marleen, who was a nurse.[2][3] The poem was later published as "Das Lied eines jungen Soldaten auf der Wacht" ("The Song of a Young Soldier on Watch") in 1937, now with the two last (of five) verses added.

It was set to music by Norbert Schultze in 1938. It was 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 former a British army officer working for the German Auslandssendedienst.[4] Tommie Connor later wrote English lyrics with the title "Lily of the Lamplight " in 1944.

Exposure and reception[edit][]

First recording of Lili Marlen, dated 2 August 1939, by Electrola Studio, Berlin. Label of one of the different variants that appeared during the war. The oldest label shows that the original song title was first called "Song of a Young Sentry".

After the occupation of Belgrade in 1941, Radio Belgrade became the German forces' radio station under the name of Soldatensender Belgrad (Soldiers' Radio Belgrade), with transmissions heard throughout Europe and the Mediterranean.

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[5] was the little known two-year-old song "Lili Marleen" 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.

At one point the Nazi government's propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, ordered broadcasting of the song to stop. Radio Belgrade received many letters from Axis soldiers all over Europe asking them to play "Lili Marleen" again. Goebbels reluctantly changed his mind, and from then on the tune was used to sign-off the broadcast at 9:55 PM.

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. In fact it was published in South Africa, in a wartime leaflet, with an anonymous English translation of the text, as "Lili Marleen: The Theme Song of the Eighth Army and the 6th Armoured Division".[6] Erwin Rommel, commander of the Afrika Korps, admired the song and asked Radio Belgrade to incorporate it into their broadcasts, which they did.

Lale Andersen was awarded a gold disc for over one million sales of "Lili Marleen" [HMV - EG 6993].[7] It is thought that she was awarded her copy after hostilities ended. HMV's copy was discarded during renovations to their flagship store on Oxford Street, London, in the 1960s where, hitherto, it had been on display. The disc was recovered and is now in a private collection.

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." [8] 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 Afrika Korps 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 symbolise. 'When we get to Belgrade...' we would say. And then we would switch off the wireless a little guiltily, for the Partisans, we knew, were shocked at the strange pleasure we got from listening to the singing of the German woman who was queening it in their capital."[9] 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."[10] 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."[11]

Allied soldiers in Italy later adapted the tune to their own lyrics, creating the D-Day Dodgers song. A cartoon by Bill Mauldin in the American army newspaper Stars and Stripes shows two soldiers in a foxhole, one playing a harmonica, while the other comments, "The krauts ain't following ya too good on 'Lili Marlene' tonight, Joe. Think somethin' happened to their tenor?"

Marlene Dietrich version[edit][]

"Lili Marlene"
Single by Marlene Dietrich
B-side "Symphonie"
Released September 7, 1945
  • 10"
  • 7"
Recorded 1944
  • Jazz
  • Pop
Length 4:45
  • Decca (US)
  • Brunswick (UK)
  • MCA (re-issue)
  • Norbert Schultze
  • Hans Leip
  • Marlene Dietrich
Producer(s) Charles Magnante
Marlene Dietrich singles chronology
"Falling in Love Again" / "The Boys in the Back Room"


"Lili Marlene" / "Symphonie"


"Illusions" / "Black Market"


In 1944, the Morale Operations Branch of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) initiated the Muzak Project,[12] musical propaganda broadcasts designed to demoralize enemy soldiers. Marlene Dietrich, the only performer who was made aware that her recordings would be for OSS use, recorded a number of songs in German for the project, including Lili Marleen.[13]

In addition to recording these songs for the OSS, Dietrich furthered her help for the war effort by enlisting in the US army.[14] Later discovered to have been a US special service contact,[15] she offered to take the position after McCarthyistic claims were made against her because of her German heritage.[16] Once on the war-front she performed "Lili Marlene", as well as many other songs, live in Europe for allied troops, often on rickety, makeshift stages. She sometimes needed to improvise a scantily clad gown from a sheet, blanket, or whatever piece of material she could find to wrap around her, clamping the ends together behind her back, for a performance.

"Lili Marleen" became a massive success on the war front, specifically on the German language OSS MO radio station Soldatensender, where it became the station's theme song.[12] After the songs welcomed reception by the troops in Europe, the song was re-recorded and released, with the spelling "Lili Marlene" after her name,Marlene. It was recorded 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 on 10" shellac gramophone record.[17] The original OSS recording of "Lili Marleen" remains unreleased.

After the war, in 1961, she went on to star in the film "Judgment at Nuremberg", chronicling the war trials that took place in Nuremberg after the war. Marlene plays the widow of a German general who was executed after one of the trials for an accused crime. In a scene she walks down a rubbled street, ravaged by allied attacks, withSpencer Tracy's character, a former American judge brought in to act as the Chief Trial Judge of the three-judge panel hearing and deciding upon the main case portrayed in the film. As the two characters approach a bar they hear an out pour of men singing "Lili Marleen" in German from inside. Marlene's character begins to lightly sing along with the song as they pass by, translating a few lyrics for Spencer Tracy's character, referring to the German lyrics as "much darker" than the English.[18]

While touring the world in her over two decade long stint of live one-women cabaret shows, from 1953-1975, that started with her residency at the Sahara Hotel on theLas Vegas Strip, led to a performance at the Café de Paris in London, and had two Broadway performances, Dietrich performed "Lili Marlene" with frequency. She performed it at almost every show, the song was part of the usual line-up, usually performed after "Falling in Love Again". She always introduced the song with some variation or another of this quote, from a 1960's concert, somewhere in Europe:

Now, here is a song that is very close to my heart. I sang it during the war. I sang it for three long

years, all through Africa, Sicily, Italy, to Alaska, Greenland, Iceland, to England, through France, through Belgium, [long pause] to Germany, and to Czechoslovakia. The soldiers loved it, 'Lili Marlene' .[19]

"Lili Marlene" was performed in Dietrich's television special An Evening with Marlene Dietrich which aired on the BBC in the UK and on CBS in the US in 1973. "Lili Marlene" was featured on four of her six original albums. "Lili Marlene" was also recorded and performed by Dietrich in both the original German version and English adaptation, both versions have appeared on countless compilation albums world-wide, and even been made the title of several compilations. To date, "Lili Marlene", "Falling in Love Again", and "The Boys in the Back Room" are considered to be the three songs most associated with and performed by Marlene Dietrich.

Track listings[edit][]

English version[edit][]

10" single

Original issuing of the song by Decca Records in the US[17] and Brunswick Records in the UK[20] was on 10". Decca re-issued the single on 7" during the 1950s and early 1970s.[21] This is also the version of the single that was reissued by MCA in 1978[22] and 1980[23] on 7".

Side A
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Lili Marlene"  
  • Norbert Schultze
  • Hans Leip
  • Marlene Dietrich
Side B
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Symphonie" (sung in French)
  • Alex Alstone
  • André Gaston Isaac Tabet
  • Roger Bernstein
7" Brunswick re-issue

Most likely re-issued in the 1970s, it was originally released in the Netherlands on 7" by Brunswick Records.[24] This version of the single was re-issued again in the UK in 1989, and in 1992 it was issued in Germany, both by MCA,[25] the 1989 re-issue also having been released by Old Gold Records.[26]

[show]Side A
[show]Side B

German version[edit][]

7" EP Philips issue

Released in 1959 by Philips Records in association with Columbia Records on 7" in the Netherlands,[27] it was intended as an abridged extended play version of an internationally released compilation album of the same name, consisting of songs sung in German by Dietrich.[28][29][30][31]

[show]Side A
[show]Side B
7" Columbia International issue

Released in 1961 by CBS Records on 7" in the Netherlands.[33]

[show]Side A
[show]Side B
7" EMI Italiana issue

Released in 1962 by EMI Italiana on 7" in Italy.[34]

[show]Side A
[show]Side B


List of personnel for the original 1945 single.[17]

  • Alex Alstone - composer (B)
  • Roger Bernstein - composer (B)
  • Marlene Dietrich - vocalist, composer (A)
  • Hans Leip - composer (A)
  • Charles Magnante - orchestra director, accordion
  • Charles Magnate Orchestra
  • Norbert Schultze - composer (A)
  • André Gaston Isaac Tabet - composer (B)

Connie Francis version[edit][]

"Lili Marleen"
Single by Connie Francis
B-side "Mond von Mexico"
Released 1962
Format 7" single
  • A-side: June 3, 1961
  • B-side: October 5, 1961
  • (both at Austrophon Studio,Vienna)
Genre Schlager music
Length 1:55
Label MGM Records (61 053)
  • Norbert Schultze
  • Hans Leip
Producer(s) Gerhard Mendelsohn
Connie Francis

German singles chronology

"Eine Insel für zwei" /

"Das ist zuviel"

"Eine Insel für zwei" /

"Das ist zuviel"

"Tu' mir nicht weh" /


"Lili Marleen" was released by American entertainer Connie Francis in 1962.


The release of "Lili Marlene" marked Francis's seventh single in German. In addition to recording the song in its original German, Francis also recorded the song in Italianand French.

Francis recorded "Lili Marlene" on June 3, 1961. She recorded the single's B-side, "Mond von Mexico", on October 5, 1961. Both song were recorded in Vienna, Austriaat the Austrophon Studio.

"Lili Marleen" peaked at number 9 on the German music charts.[35]

Track listing[edit][]


Credits adapted from the liner notes of original release.[36]

Side A
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Lili Marlene"  
  • Norbert Schultze
  • Hans Leip
Side B
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Mond von Mexico"  
  • Fini Busch
  • Werner Scharfenberger


  • Fini Busch - composer (B)
  • Connie Francis - vocalist
  • Hans Leip - composer (A)
  • Gerhard Mendelsohn - producer
  • Werner Scharfenberger - composer (B)
  • Norbert Schultze - composer (A)

Chart performance[edit][]

Chart (1962) Peak


Germany 9

Amanda Lear version[edit][]

"Lili Marleen"
Single by Amanda Lear
from the album Never Trust a Pretty Face
B-side "Dreamer (South Pacific)"
Released 1979
Format 7"
Recorded 1978
Genre Euro disco
Length 4:45
Label Ariola Records
  • Norbert Schultze
  • Hans Leip
  • Tommie Connor
Producer(s) Anthony Monn
Amanda Lear singles chronology
"Fashion Pack"


"Lili Marleen"


"Fabulous (Lover, Love Me)"


French singer and euro disco queen Amanda Lear recorded a German-English language version of the song for her 1979 album Never Trust a Pretty Face. French editions of the album included a German-French version of the track. "Lili Marleen" was released as a promotional single only in Argentina, although earlier it became the B-side of the single "Gold".[37] The singer performed the song in the 1978 film Zio Adolfo in arte Führer.

Lear has made "Lili Marleen" part of her standard performance repertoire. She re-recorded the song for her albums Cadavrexquis (1993) and Heart (2001).

Track listing[edit][]

  • 7" Promotional Single (1979)
A. "Lili Marleen"
B. "Dreamer (South Pacific)"

Chart performance[edit][]

Chart (1979) Peak


Italy[38] 12

Other versions[edit][]

While the Italian version, translated by lyricist Nino Rastelli and recorded in 1942 by Lina Termini, was probably the first to be released, the earliest English languagerecording of the song was probably Anne Shelton's, but a number of cover versions followed. A version called "The D-Day Dodgers" was sung by the Canadian Army remaining in Italy once the Normandy invasion had begun in 1944. A recording was made by Perry Como on 27 June 1944 and issued by RCA Victor Records as a 78rpm record (catalog number 20-1592-A) with the flip side "First Class Private Mary Brown". This recording was later re-issued as catalog number 20-2824-A with flip side "I Love You Truly". The song reached chart position #13 on the United States charts. The song was recorded during the musicians' strike and consequently has a backing chorus instead of an orchestral backup. A version with French words by Henri Lemarchand was recorded by Suzy Solidor in 1941.[39]

Other artists who recorded the song included Hildegarde (on Decca),[40] Martha Tilton (on Coral), and Vaughn Monroe (on V-Disc). Al Martino revived the song for Capitol Records in 1968. Another version was recorded in the 1960s by Hank Locklin. Another French singer, Patricia Kaas used "Lili Marlene" as an intro for her song "D'Allemagne" and sang the entire song during concerts in the 1990s. Matia Bazar (Italy) recorded an uptempo beat song called "Lili Marleen" on her 1982 album Berlino, Parigi, Londra. The song is a "spoken words" early 1980s dance track. Spanish group Olé Olé, led by Marta Sánchez, released an electro-pop version of the song in 1985.[41] It became one of the best-selling singles in Spain of the 1980s, and paved way for the singer to have a successful career. The song was eventually included in the also best-selling album 'Bailando Sin Salir de Casa' in 1986. German blackmetal band Eisregen recorded a version of "Lili Marlene" on their album Hexenhaus. The German Gothic metal/Industrial metal band Atrocityreleased the song in both languages (English & German) on Gemini: on the blue edition was the German version, and on the red edition was the English version.[42] Kid Creole and the Coconuts included an uptempo, disco-influenced version of "Lili Marlene", with German lyrics sung by Coconut Adriana Kaegi, on their 1980 debut LP release Off the Coast of Me. Carly Simon recorded the song as the third track on her 1997 Arista CD Film Noir. It has also been translated into Hawaiian by Kiope Raymond, and recorded by Raymond and Pearl Rose on Rose's 2000 album Homecoming. Most recently it was recorded by Neil Hannonof the Irish pop group The Divine Comedy as a B-side to the 2006 single "A Lady Of A Certain Age". A slow-tempo instrumental version can be found on the compilation LP, Vienna: City of Dreams, by the Austrian zither master Anton Karas. "Lili Marlene" has been adopted as the regimental slow march by the Special Air Service, Special Air Service Regiment and Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.

Other interpretations[edit][]

Humphrey Jennings directed the 29 minute long film, The True Story of Lili Marlene, in 1944 about the song.[43]

Rainer Werner Fassbinder directed the 1980 film Lili Marleen, the story of Lale Andersen and her version of the song.[44]

Estonian punk rock band Vennaskond released an Estonian version of the song on their album Usk. Lootus. Armastus. in 1993.[45] Another Estonian group, Swing Swindlers, recorded a melancholy swinging version in 2007 (both in German and Estonian) and featured the song in their film Berlin 1945: Musik Unter Bomben with vocals by Mart Sander, Kelli Uustani, Nele-Liis Vaiksoo and Pirjo Levandi.[46]

The 2009 film, Bad Day to Go Fishing, directed by Alvaro Brechner, showed an uncontrollable titan of impressive dimensions (Jouko Ahola) who could only be appeased by the melody of "Lili Marlene".[47]

British singer-songwriter Katy Carr featured this song in English on her album Coquette (2009).

Dutch folk band Omnia recorded a version of the song on their 2011 album Musick and Poëtree.