'You’ll Never Walk Alone': How Gerry Marsden turned a 1940s musical song into one of the most famous football anthems of all time
The story behind Liverpool's world-famous anthem, which started out life very differently
All football fans will know the anthem of their team, and will sing it loudly when their players take to the pitch. But none do so with quite as much pride as Liverpool FC fans.
The British Premier League club’s anthem, You’ll Never Walk Alone, might be one of the most well-known football chants in the world.
But how did the song, which originally featured in Oscar Hammerstein’s 1940s musical Carousel, become adopted by Liverpool fans the world over?
Released in 1945, months before the end of the Second World War, the song became an instant hit thanks to its message of triumph in times of adversity. It remained popular throughout the 1950s, thanks to covers by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. However, it was in 1963, when Liverpudlian band, Gerry and The Pacemakers, recorded a version that captured the imagination of the people of Liverpool.
The band’s frontman, Gerry Marsden, who died on Sunday, January 3 at the age of 78, told the Liverpool FC website how You'll Never Walk Alone was adopted by the club's fans during its four-week stint at the top of the charts in 1963.
"I remember being at Anfield, and before every kick-off they used to play the top 10 from number 10 to number one, and so You'll Never Walk Alone was played before the match. I was at the game and the fans started singing it," Marsden recalls.
"When it went out of the top 10 they took the song off the playlist and then for the next match the Kop were shouting 'Where's our song?' So they had to put it back on.
"Now, every time I go to the game I still get goose pimples when the song comes on and I sing my head off."
The song took on a deeper meaning following the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, which saw 96 fans killed and hundreds more injured following a human crush at the Sheffield stadium. Following the disaster, 13,000 people gathered at Liverpool’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, where You'll Never Walk Alone was sung by a lone choirboy.
In the years that followed, the song became a source of resilience for both Liverpool players and fans.
During the club’s 2005 Uefa Champions League Final in Istanbul, Liverpool were down 3-0 against AC Milan, before the crowd broke out into deafening renditions of its famous anthem. The team were galvanised into catching AC Milan’s lead, eventually going on to win the game and be crowned European champions.
Following his team’s defeat, AC Milan’s then-coach, Carlo Ancelotti, conceded that Liverpool had the better fans on the day. “When they sing a song I don’t know in English, but your skin is...”, he said, fluttering his fingers across his arm to signify goose pimples.
Following the death of Marsden on Sunday, hundreds of fans shared tributes and lines from the song on social media. Liverpool football club, on its Twitter account, said: "It is with such great sadness that we hear of Gerry Marsden's passing.
"Gerry's words will live on forever with us. You'll Never Walk Alone."
Updated: January 4, 2021 06:26 PM