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Liverpool City Region Music Board pays tribute to Gerry Marsden

Liverpool City Region Music Board would like to pay tribute to Liverpool music legend, Gerry Marsden, who sadly passed this week.

Kevin McManus, representative of the Liverpool City Region Music Board and Head of UNESCO City of Music at Culture Liverpool, shares memorable experiences of working with the late Gerry Marsden and pays tribute to the musical legacy he leaves behind.

 

The news of Gerry Marsden’s death at the start of a new year came as a real blow to everyone connected with Liverpool music. While Gerry will forever be closely associated with the city of his birth, his death will have resonated much more widely because he was known and loved across the world.

This global recognition is partly down to factors like the longevity of his career and his close association with the Merseybeat scene but he is known all around the world because of two songs in particular: You’ll Never Walk Alone and Ferry Cross The Mersey. Both songs are inextricably linked to the city and both can bring a tear to the eyes of even the hardest of hearts.

Of course in the story of Merseybeat Gerry and the Pacemakers are, quite rightly, overshadowed by The Beatles, but they still achieved the remarkable feat of being the first act to reach Number One with their first three singles (Something which didn’t happen again until the mighty Frankie Goes To Hollywood came along over 20 years later).

I worked with Gerry once when a group of us got together, led by Steve Rotheram (then a local MP) to record a single in support of the Hillsborough campaign. We managed to get a host of big names involved in recording a version of He Ain’t Heavy and Steve was adamant that Gerry should be involved. Gerry was keen to be involved, was a joy to work with, and contributed a typically lovely and distinctive vocal line to the single.

Gerry had previously recorded another charity Hillsborough single in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. This was a version of his own anthem Ferry Cross The Mersey which he recorded with a number of pop stars of the day and also memorably sang at the FA Cup Final (between Liverpool and Everton) later that year. We shouldn’t forget that he also raised money for victims of the Bradford Stadium fire with a reworking of You’ll Never Walk Alone that reached Number One in 1985.

I love the romanticism of Ferry Cross The Mersey (written by Gerry himself) and it is great to hear it coming out the speakers when you take visitors on the Mersey Ferry. But as a Liverpool fan You’ll Never Walk Alone sung by Gerry Marsden is the song of songs. I know it is from a musical but it’s a song that feels like it was written just for us and, in fact that Gerry was destined to cover it so that the song would find its rightful home in this city.  It is pointless trying to describe what it is like being on the Kop singing along with 20,000 other fans but there’s nothing like it to bring everyone together on nights of celebration or disappointment.

The last time I saw Gerry was around 18 months ago when I ended up sitting at the same table as him and his wife at a party. He was a little bit frail but he still had that twinkle in his eye and air of mischief about him that I’d noticed on the few occasions I’d met him before. He was a great storyteller and as someone who’d worked with absolutely everyone he had some brilliant tales to tell. What sticks in my memory in particular about the night is that when Gerry was getting ready to leave the DJ put on You’ll Never Walk Alone and the whole room rose as one and sang along in our own small tribute to a genuine Liverpool musical legend.

It seems fitting that his last public performance of You’ll Never Walk Alone was at its spiritual home of Anfield, when Gerry joined Take That on stage for a surprise finale to their gig to the huge delight of a packed stadium. A special moment for everyone there and a great way to remember a special man.