You’ll Never Walk Alone

June 26, 2020

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark

At the end of a storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone

You’ll never walk alone

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone

You’ll never walk alone

On next Sunday, when Liverpool Football Club hosts Aston Villa from Birmingham in the Premier League, the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone” will once again sound from the public-address system at Anfield – Liverpool FC’s legendary home ground since the club’s founding in 1892. Unfortunately without the spectators at “The Kop” and the other stands, but for all the club’s millions of supporters – in Liverpool and across the globe – the song and emotion this evening will be very special. The supporters can celebrate Liverpool FC’s first national Championship in 30 years. A club that has endured triumphs and tragedies of unimaginable dimensions over the past decades.

From the musical about a father’s “mistakes through life” to the world’s most famous football song

“You’ll Never Walk Alone” is first of all known as the world’s most famous football song. The lyrics make it rattle down the spine, and when the song sounds at Anfield in Liverpool, Celtic Park in Glasgow or Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund, one must humbly acknowledge that however emotional and generous football can be. The song’s reach and fixpoint through the generations for millions of football fans is really surprising. The story of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” began back in 1945, when it was authored by the legendary duo Rodgers & Hammerstein for the musical “Carousel”. The musical is a very sad story of a father being sent down from heaven to seek forgiveness for some of the mistakes he made during his life on earth. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” as the closing number in the musical, where the father is allowed to return to heaven after reconciling and attending the daughter’s high-school graduation. This closing number has meant that the song has often been – and continues to be – sung in connection with end-of-term celebrations in the United States.

LFC – the hope of greatness for a sad and poor port city

The port city of Liverpool has always been closely linked culturally and socially to the United States, and the young singer Gerry Marsden had seen in the cinema in the early 1960’s the American filmization of the musical “Carousel”. He was not so impressed with the film itself, but he could not shake off “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. Gerry Marsden was singer in the Liverpool group “Gerry and The Pacemakers”, and in the fall of 1963 Gerry Marsden was ready to record the song on single. Gerry Marsden had seen, and not least heard right: A classic was born, but no one had ever dreamed what influence the song would have over time. Back in the fall of 1963, Liverpool FC, with the legendary Bill Shankly as manager, had just begun its ascendancy to the best football clubs in England. The club was the season before returned to the best division – after 8 seasons in the second best. The many dock workers from Liverpool’s dock areas had also just won the right to be released every Saturday afternoon, and “Merseybeat” with bands like “The Beatles” and “Gerry and The Pacemakers” really put Liverpool on the map. And on the world’s most famous stand – The Kop – 28,000 “scousers” stood every other Saturday and romped on the hit parade of time, which was played over the public-address system before every home game. When the tour came to “You’ll Never Walk Alone” the scousers” continued to sing, even after the speakers were turned off. And even as the song disappeared from the public-address system, the fans at “The Kop” continued to sing it. After that, it wasn’t long before it became a solid repertoire for all LFC’s matches. An indispensable ritual just before the players run on the field. Later that season (1963-64), the club won its first national Championship in 17 years, which was also the first championship with Bill Shankly as manager. And “You’ll Never Walk Alone” has since accompanied the club in good times and bad.

Among Liverpool FC’s biggest triumphs are 6 titles in the most prestigious European Champions League, 3 UEFA Cup titles, 19 national Championships and 7 FA Cup titles, making Liverpool FC one of the most winning English clubs ever, and the football club in the UK that has won the most European titles.

Two tragedies that will never be forgotten

But the song has seemed the strongest and most comforting in the club’s black moments – not least in connection with the tragedies at Heysel and Hillsborough. The tragedy at Heysel Stadium in Brussels took place during the final of the European Champions final between Liverpool FC and Juventus FC in May 1985. An hour before the match, it was revealed that the fences were set up to maintain a so-called neutral area in the stands between Liverpool and Juventus supporters were far too flimsy. The shutdowns gave way and chaos ensued among Juventus’ supporters due to pressure from Liverpool’s supporters. As a result, all fans gathered in the one grandstand, which crashed, killing 39 people. The game was finished despite protests from the teams’ managers, and it ended with a 1-0 win for Juventus FC. Subsequently, 14 Liverpool supporters were sentenced to imprisonment for up to 3 years for negligent manslaughter.

Only four years later, Liverpool FC and its supporters experienced yet another tragedy at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, with 96 fans perishing and more than 400 fans injured. The accident happened in a match where “The Reds” met Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup semi-finals. More than 25,000 Liverpool supporters had traveled to Sheffield and shortly after the start of the match, they became 96 supporters – including children of 6-8 years – mast to death. Both immediately after the match and right up until a few years ago there have been countless investigations and explanations of the causes of the tragedy. Just 4 years ago – and a quarter of a century after the Hillsborough Stadium tragedy – a jury set up by the British government announced that the 96 LFC supporters perished as a result of a criminal offense. The police, who were present during the match, were thus convicted of negligent manslaughter. In addition, the organizers of the match were criticized for not controlling the conduct of the match, including failing to postpone the start of the match due to the massive crowd influx. And finally, the rescuers were criticized for not realizing the scale of the disaster in time. In doing so, Liverpool supporters were resurrected for the accusations that had been directed at them over the years for awareness of the tragedy.

In joy and sorrow….

“You’ll Never Walk Alone” is also sung elsewhere than on Anfield and it has an understandable global appeal. But regardless of the fact, the song will always be closely associated with Liverpool Football Club. The relationship to the song has been strengthened after the Hillsborough tragedy, and for Liverpool fans, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” has become the epitome of what football and life are all about: We stand together – in joy and sorrow.

You can find more information about Liverpool Football Club on the website: https://www.liverpoolfc.com

The following books about Liverpool Football Club are recommended:

Hughes, Simon: The Red Journey. An Oral History of Liverpool Football Club (de Coubertin Books, 2017).

Platt, Mark: Liverpool Football Club. Champions of Europe. (Grange Communication Ltd., 2019).