Merseybeat singer Gerry Marsden ‘was a fantastic ambassador for Liverpool'
Much-loved Merseybeat singer Gerry Marsden’s most famous hit, You’ll Never Walk Alone, became a soothing anthem for many people in times of troubles.
Just last year, during the coronavirus lockdown, Britain’s new national treasure and hero – fundraiser Captain Sir Tom Moore – scored a number one hit with the tune in the Official Singles Chart.
Marsden, who awarded an MBE in 2003 for his charity work stretching back to his music success in the 1960s, re-released his classic hit to help families of disasters.
He is best know as the lead singer of sixties band Gerry and the Pacemakers, which in the early 1960s worked the same Liverpool/Hamburg club circuit as the Beatles and many other groups before being signed by manager Brian Epstein.
He also supported numerous charities across Merseyside and beyond.
Marsden re-released You’ll Never Walk Alone, with other artists, after the Bradford City fire disaster in 1985 – to raise money for the families of victims.
He repeated this success with Ferry Cross The Mersey, performed with other Merseyside artists including Paul McCartney and Holly Johnson, in aid of the families of the Liverpool supporters who died in the April 1989 Hillsborough football disaster.
It had already been adopted by Liverpool Football Club as their anthem.
Born in Liverpool in September 1942, Marsden made his first public appearance aged just 13 as a member of a youth club called The Florence Institute in Liverpool.
He admitted to being nervous singing in front of the city’s lord mayor, but it did not stop his quest for stardom and a place among the Merseybeat greats.
In 1959, with his brother Freddie and bass guitarist Les Chadwick and pianist Arthur Mack, he formed a band called The Mars Bars, hoping this would bring them sponsorship from the chocolate makers.
When their bid for corporate backing failed, they changed their name to The Pacemakers after Gerry heard an athletics commentary on TV.
As the band’s success grew, Marsden gave up his job as a tea chest maker to turn professional, and the band went from strength to strength.
Mack left the band in 1960, but Les Maguire joined a year later and they went on to perform alongside the Beatles.
In 1962, Beatles manager Epstein signed up the band and their first three releases reached number one in 1963 – How Do You Do It, I Like It and You’ll Never Walk Alone.
Other chart hits included I’m The One and Ferry Cross The Mersey, the title song of the 1965 film starring the group who played an up and coming band taking part in a music competition.
The group split in 1967 and Marsden pursued a solo career before the band reformed in 1974 to tour the world – a tour they repeated in 1993 to mark 30 years of Gerry and the Pacemakers.
In 1993, Marsden went on to write the story of his success in I’ll Never Walk Alone: An Autobiography, which also became the basis of a musical theatre production.
He had triple heart bypass surgery at Broad Green hospital in Liverpool in 2003.
He hung up his guitar after 60 years of live performances to spend his retirement with his wife Pauline and his family.
Marsden marked being awarded the freedom of Liverpool in April 2009 by boarding a ferry across the Mersey where he stunned commuters and sightseers by getting out his guitar to sing his famous hit which described the scene.
All aboard the Royal Iris ferry then cheered, clapped and sang along to the impromptu performance of the famous Liverpool pop song.
He said afterwards: “I am delighted to be awarded this honour in the city that I love.
“Everyone knows that I’m extremely proud of Liverpool and this really is the icing on the cake for me. I am especially honoured that the freedom is being awarded by my fellow Liverpudlians for my charity work.”
The then Lord Mayor Steve Rotherham described him as “a fantastic ambassador for Liverpool”.