You’ll Never Walk Alone is perhaps the most famous song in football, and is heard before kick-off at every Liverpool match at Anfield. It has travelled around the world as the Reds have toured Europe and even further afield as five-time European champions.
But how did it become such a huge part of the club’s identity? The story of the song and its association with Liverpool the team and the city, as well as many other footballing institutions, dates back to the 1960s.
WHO WROTE YNWA?
You’ll Never Walk Alone was written by Oscar Hammerstein II and composed by Richard Rodgers for their musical Carousel, which was released in the USA in 1945.
It later spawned a number of cover versions, the most successful of which in the UK was released by Gerry and the Pacemakers in 1963. Formed by and named after lead singer Gerry Marsden (pictured above), Gerry and the Pacemakers started out in 1959 and were part of the 1960s Merseybeat scene led by The Beatles.
Their version of You’ll Never Walk Alone hit number one in the UK charts and stayed there for four weeks.
WHEN DID LIVERPOOL ADOPT YNWA?
Sometime around the time of the release of Gerry and the Pacemakers’ cover, the song was adopted by Liverpool FC. The accepted version of events is that Marsden presented a copy of the single to Reds manager Bill Shankly during a pre-season trip that same year and, according to Tommy Smith, a player at the time, Shankly was “in awe of what he heard”.
The reporters travelling with the party subequently sent word home that You’ll Never Walk Alone was the new club song and things developed from there. Shankly picked the song during an appearance on the BBC’s Desert Island Discs radio show in 1965 ahead of that year’s FA Cup final and the television footage of that match provides the first evidence of it being sung in the stands
WHICH OTHER CLUBS SING YNWA
Celtic adopted You’ll Never Walk Alone soon after Liverpool, with some even debating which club got their first. Most agree that the Scottish team’s fans brought it home with them after they played Liverpool at Anfield in the 1966 European Cup Winners’ Cup semi-finals, and it is now sung before European games at Celtic Park.
Since then, it has become widespread among a number of clubs. Probably the most famous other than Liverpool and Celtic is Borussia Dortmund, who combined with Liverpool fans for a memorable rendition of the anthem when the two sides met in the Europa League during the 2015-16 season.
It is particularly popular in Germany and the Netherlands, where Feyenoord sing it, and has gone around the globe to clubs like FC Tokyo in Japan. When Liverpool played pre-season matches in Australia in 2013, 95,000 fans packed in to the Melbourne Cricket Ground and produced an incredible pre-match chorus.
WHY IS YNWA SIGNIFICANT?
The song developed a new meaning and symbolism after the Hillsborough disaster of 1989 in which 96 fans lost their lives. Twenty-five years after the first coroner’s inquest concluded the deaths were accidental, the campaigning efforts of the families of the deceased resulted in a new verdict being delivered stating that their relatives had been unlawfully killed.
Throughout that process, the lyrics and themes of You’ll Never Walk Alone were prominent. A special version of the song had also been recorded in 1985 following the Valley Parade fire at Bradford City that killed 56 spectators.
Today, the words ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ appear on Liverpool’s crest based on the design of the Shankly Gates, which were erected outside Anfield in 1982.
WHAT ARE THE LYRICS TO YNWA?
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) March 11, 2016</blockquote>
When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the 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 aloneYou’ll never walk alone
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone