LONDON — Gerry Marsden, lead singer of the 1960s British group Gerry and the Pacemakers that had such hits as “Ferry Cross the Mersey” and the song that became the anthem of Liverpool Football Club, “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” died Sunday. He was 78.
His friend Pete Price said on Instagram after speaking to Mr. Marsden’s family that the singer died after a short illness related to a heart infection.
Mr. Marsden was the lead singer of the band that found fame in the Merseybeat scene in the 1960s. Though another Liverpool band — The Beatles — reached superstardom, Gerry and the Pacemakers will always have a place in the city’s consciousness because of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
“I thought what a beautiful song. I’m going to tell my band we’re going to play that song,” Mr. Marsden said in 2018 when recalling the first time he heard the song at the cinema. “So I went back and told my buddies we’re doing a ballad called ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone.’”
The song was from “Carousel,” which was a 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that became a feature film in 1956. The Pacemakers’ cover version was released in October 1963 and became the band’s third No. 1 hit on the British singles chart.
It was adopted by fans of the soccer club Liverpool and is sung with spine-tingling passion before each home game of the 19-time English champion — before coronavirus restrictions meant many matches being played in empty stadiums.
“I was saddened by Gerry Marsden’s passing. His voice will always lead the way at Anfield, in times of celebration or lament," singer Elvis Costello said, referring to Liverpool's stadium.
The song's lyrics, showcasing unity and perseverance through adversity — including “When you walk through a storm, Hold your head up high, And don’t be afraid of the dark” — have been a rallying cry for the Liverpool faithful and the song’s title are on the Liverpool club crest.
The song has also been adopted by supporters of Scotland’s Celtic and Germany’s Borussia Dortmund.
Liverpool tweeted alongside a video of the fans in full voice that Mr. Marsden’s voice “accompanied our biggest nights” and that his ”anthem bonded players, staff and fans around the world, helping create something truly special.”
The song was embraced during the outset of the coronavirus pandemic last spring when a cover of the song, which featured World War II veteran Tom Moore, reached number one. Moore had captivated the British public by walking 100 laps of his garden in England in the run-up to his 100th birthday in April to raise $40 million for the National Health Service.
The Cavern Club in Liverpool, the music venue that was the venue for many of The Beatles’ early gigs, described Mr. Marsden as a “legend” and a “very good friend.”
In 1962, Beatles manager Brian Epstein signed up the band and their first three releases reached No. 1 in 1963 — “How Do You Do It?” and “I Like It” as well as “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Later hits included “Ferry Cross the Mersey,” and “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying.” The group split in 1967 and Mr. Marsden pursued a solo career before reforming the band a few years later.
Paul McCartney from The Beatles said Mr. Marsden was “a mate from our early days in Liverpool” and his group were “our biggest rivals” on the local scene.
“His unforgettable performances of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and ‘Ferry Cross the Mersey’ remain in many people’s hearts as reminders of a joyful time in British music," he said.
Mr. Marsden leaves his wife, Pauline, whom he married in 1965. The couple had two daughters.