Gerry Marsden, the lead singer of Gerry and the Pacemakers known for hits including You’ll Never Walk Alone and Ferry Cross the Mersey, has died at 78 after a short illness.
He shot to fame in the 1960s as the leader of the Merseybeat band at a time when Liverpool was the centre of the musical universe.
His friend, the DJ Pete Price, broke the news on Sunday, tweeting: “It’s with a very heavy heart after speaking to the family that I have to tell you the Legendary Gerry Marsden MBE after a short illness which was an infection in his heart has sadly passed away. Sending all the love in the world to Pauline and his family. You’ll Never Walk Alone”.
In 1963 the Pacemakers topped the British charts with their first three singles, How Do You Do It?, I Like It and You’ll Never Walk Alone, a Rodgers and Hammerstein composition from the musical Carousel. The song became the anthem of Liverpool FC, sung from the Kop at every game. The club tweeted: “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”.
Gerry and the Pacemakers played regularly with the Beatles. Both groups were part of Brian Epstein’s Liverpool-based management stable.
The Cavern Club, where both bands regularly played, tweeted:
Born in the Dingle area of Liverpool, Marsden was just 14 when he joined his first band, a skiffle group called the Red Mountain Boys, which featured his big brother Freddie on drums. They later renamed themselves the Mars Bars, but the chocolate company demanded that they change their name, and in 1959 the group became the Pacemakers.
In June 1960 they played for the first time with the Beatles – then the Silver Beetles – and in December that year they were contracted to play a four-month stint in Hamburg, prompting the group to give up their day jobs to become professional musicians. “We went over with the Beatles and had a good laugh,” Marsden later recalled.
The group’s first hit, How Do You Do It?, was first recorded by the Beatles in 1962, but rejected by them and given to Marsden’s band by the producer, George Martin, becoming their first No 1 in April 1963.
Ferry Cross the Mersey was released in late 1964 and reached No 8 in the UK. In 1989, Marsden topped the charts with a new version of the song recorded with fellow Merseyside artists the Christians, Holly Johnson and Paul McCartney in aid of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster, in which a crush of Liverpool fans at a stadium in Sheffield resulted in 96 deaths.
Angela Eagle, the Labour MP for Wallasey, in Wirral, tweeted:
Marsden’s version of You’ll Never Walk Alone re-entered the charts in March at the start of lockdown, after he encouraged people to sing it from their doorsteps during the weekly Clap for our Carers. Captain Tom Moore topped the charts in April with his own version recorded with Michael Ball and an NHS choir to raise money for health service charities.