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17 September 1880
22 February 1953 (aged 72)|
Pinner, London, England
Eddie Stamper, |
Edward E. Elton
Fred Godfrey (17 September 1880 – 22 February 1953) was the pen name of Llewellyn Williams, a World War I songwriter. He is best known for the songs "Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty" (1916) and "Bless 'Em All" (1917), a 1940s hit recorded by George Formby that can be found on many war films.
On 1 July 1901 he married Bertha Lloyd. (One of her cousins was Collie Knox, a well-known Daily Mail journalist of the 1930s and 1940s. Her older brother Charles Ellis Lloyd was a Welsh novelist.) They were married in Treherbert; after which they moved to 6 Streatham Place, London.
Between 1900 and 1953 he wrote over 900 songs.
He began selling songs around 1906, with his first success a year later, when he teamed up with lyricist Harry Castling to produce two songs, which Billy Williams (no relation) later recorded successfully. From 1911 until 1915, nearly every one of Williams' songs was composed by Godfrey. He also wrote songs for Florrie Forde, Mark Sheridan, Dorothy Ward, Shaun Glenville, Ella Retford and Vesta Victoria. Godfrey only got a few guineas for each song, a common occurrence at the time.
During World War I, he gained a reputation as a writer of war songs. His song "Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty" was recorded by Dorothy Ward in 1916 and quickly became a hit. On 26 January 1917 he was conscripted into the Royal Naval Air Service. He was transferred to the Royal Air Force in 1918, who released him from service to continue songwriting. In 1917, while he was away in the RNAS, "Down Texas Way", a song he had written the year, before was published and become a success.
After World War I popular music changed tone, and he became less successful.
In 1930 he played in a variety act featuring his hit songs with Irish tenor Tom Finglass. The act was a success, but Godfrey could not keep to the schedule, and the act soon folded. In the late 1930s his old-fashioned comic song style appealed to movie actor George Formby, Jr. and radio’s "Gert and Daisy". Comedian Max Miller's 1938 film Everything Happens to Me featured two, including the title song.
In October 1939 Godfrey’s wife Bertha died from cancer at the age of 59.
In November 1940, came Formby’s recording of "Bless 'Em All" was released. After World War I, it had become a kind of unofficial anthem of the RAF. Soon after its popular release, it became an immediate success. Formby recorded a second version in early 1941, with new lyrics by Godfrey.
- Laverne Stewart (20 March 2009). "Musical Legacy". pp. C1, C3.
- Norris, Barry. "A Biography of Fred Godfrey (1880–1953)". Bless ’Em All: The Songs of Fred Godfrey. Retrieved 20 March 2009.