Gerry Marsden, Frontman of Gerry and the Pacemakers, Dies at 78

Ellise Shafer
·4 min read

Gerry Marsden, the frontman of Gerry and the Pacemakers and singer of Liverpool Football Club anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” has died, according to the BBC. He was 78.

Marsden’s friend and journalist Pete Price broke the news via Twitter on Sunday, stating that the singer died “after a short illness which was an infection in his heart.”

Marsden formed Gerry and the Pacemakers in 1959 with his brother Fred, Les Chadwick and Arthur McMahon, who was replaced by Les Maguire in 1961. They went on to rival the Beatles in their early career, playing similar venues in Hamburg and Liverpool.

Gerry and the Pacemakers were the second act to sign with Beatles manager Brian Epstein, who later signed them to Columbia Records. Their first single was March 1963’s “How Do You Do It?,” which climbed to No. 1 on the U.K. charts. That song, penned by tunesmith Mitch Murray, was famously rejected by the Beatles after producer George Martin tried to persuade the group to record it as their first single, opting instead for the Lennon-McCartney original “Love Me Do.” The Beatles did record a version, while Gerry and the Pacemakers’ hit with “How Do You Do It?”was vindication of sorts for Martin.

Their next two singles, “I Like It” and a cover of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” also released in 1963 and hit No. 1 on the charts. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” soon became the anthem of Liverpool Football Club, and Marsden re-recorded the hit in 1985 following the Bradford Football Club stadium tragedy along with other well-known singers and personalities.

Marsden wrote many of the band’s songs, including “I’m the One”, “It’s Gonna Be All Right,” “Ferry Cross the Mersey” and “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying,” which became their biggest U.S. hit, peaking at No. 4. Gerry and the Pacemakers also starred in a film in 1965, titled “Ferry Cross the Mersey,” which was often referred to as their version of the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night.”

Gerry and the Pacemakers disbanded in 1967, and Marsden became a television personality, appearing in the children’s series “The Sooty Show” from 1968 to 1976. He also starred in the West End musical “Charlie Girl”with Derek Nimmo and Anna Neagle in 1968.

Marsden reformed the Pacemakers in 1972 with Jose McLaughlin, Billy Kinsley and Pete Clarke. In 1973, they became the only Merseybeat band to record for “The John Peel Show” on BBC Radio. Throughout the years, Marsden occasionally toured with different lineups of the band. Marsden was awarded the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2003 for his charity services following the 1989 Hillsborough disaster. In 2018, Marsden announced his retirement.

Liverpool Football Club paid tribute to Marsden on Twitter, writing: “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.”

Paul McCartney also remembered Marsden on Twitter alongside a photo of the Beatles and Gerry and the Pacemakers. “Gerry was a mate from our early days in Liverpool. He and his group were our biggest rivals on the local scene,” McCartney wrote. “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.”

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