The Rodgers and Hammerstein number became a football anthem via the late Gerry Marsden, bringing euphoric determination to every era of Liverpool FC from Shankly to Klopp
Gerry Marsden sings prior to Liverpool v Blackburn Rovers in 2010. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images
The Guardian-Tim Jonze
“It never stops creating goosebumps,” is how Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp describes it. “It never stops feeling really special.”
Our team’s anthem – Gerry and the Pacemakers’ You’ll Never Walk Alone – was not the reason Klopp came to Liverpool, but he’s talked about the moment he first heard it ringing out around the ground, and how that reassured him that he’d made the right choice to move to Merseyside. Indeed, if you could condense Klopp’s entire philosophy into one song – sticking together when times get tough, trust in the abilities of others, a conviction that better days are ahead – it would be You’ll Never Walk Alone. It’s been the club’s anthem since it topped the UK charts in 1963, providing joy and comfort during the triumphs and tragedies of the decades that have followed. Fans are now mourning the death, at 78, of the man who sang it – Gerry Marsden.
You’ll Never Walk Alone was not Marsden’s song – it started life as a show tune from the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel. Marsden fell in love with it as a kid and the timing of the local lads’ hit version couldn’t have been better. The lyrics about solidarity and togetherness – “when you walk through a storm, hold your head up high, and don’t be afraid of the dark” – made perfect sense for a club that was in the process of being rebuilt by the legendary Bill Shankly on a bedrock of socialist beliefs.
To hear it in the ground is to witness a 12th man warming up on the touchlines: spine-tingling for the home side, a wave of intimidation for the opposition. No wonder other teams have adopted it, including Celtic, Feyenoord and – funnily enough – Klopp’s two former German clubs Borussia Dortmund and Mainz. At home it rings out before kick-off. During away matches, it’s brought out to drag the team over the line when victory is within touching distance. The song has attained mythical status: when Liverpool found themselves 3-0 down at half time against AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final – as close to a lost cause as a football match gets – the fans serenaded Istanbul’s Atatürk Olympic Stadium with an especially stirring version. We all know what happened next.
You can easily argue that You’ll Never Walk Alone is what provides the link from Shankly to Dalglish to Benítez to Klopp, a kind of musical bootroom outlining the Liverpool way: that a team’s success, no matter how swashbuckling the style, is not simply a result of signing outstanding talent, but rather fostering a harmonious spirit of togetherness that runs through the club, from the players and manager through the kit room, canteen staff, fans and wider community.
But it has a deeper meaning, too. After the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, when 96 football fans lost their lives, the song’s lyrics offered comfort, but also determination – “walk on through the wind,” it urges, “walk on through the rain … and you’ll never walk alone”. This is a city that refused to back down in the face of establishment cover-ups and calls to “move on”. In 2009, to mark 20 years since the tragedy, Marsden himself led an emotional version of the song at Anfield during the memorial concert.
Back in March 2020, shortly after the pandemic forced the UK into lockdown, Klopp spoke about hearing NHS workers on the frontline singing the song while on duty. “I was sent a video of people in the hospital just outside the intensive care area and when they started singing You’ll Never Walk Alone I started crying immediately,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. But it shows everything, these people not only work but they have such a good spirit.”
Perhaps that’s the song’s ultimate magic – that it transcends its status as arguably the most famous terrace anthem in the world and offers solace and solidarity to anyone faced with adversity. As the lyrics promise: “At the end of the storm / There’s a golden sky / And the sweet silver song of the lark.” It’s a message we can all surely do with hearing right now.