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Why do Liverpool fans sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone”? Origin and meaning

It’s one of the most famous football anthems in the world, many argue the greatest, but how much do you really know about it?

Liverpool fans raise their scarves in the crowd ahead of the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Leicester City at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on February 10, 2022. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. /

“When you walk, through a storm, hold your head up high, and don’t be afraid of the dark...”

This simple collection of words can make the hair stand up on the back of the neck, and arouse a sense of pride and belonging. Just ask any supporter of Liverpool Football Club. Whether in one of the stands of Anfield Stadium, at a rival English ground, or further afield on a European trip, the feeling is just as strong for those that bleed this particular hue of red. Even watching on television or listening to the radio can somehow move the soul of a true fan.

When was You’ll Never Walk Alone written?

It is, as hopefully you’ll have assumed from the title of this article, the opening line to the song, You’ll Never Walk Alone, which was written back in 1945 for the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel, the film released in 1956. For any younger fan that has never heard this original version, there is rather a striking difference to the one now sung on the terraces, in the streets and bars where the Reds’ faithful congregate.

The purpose of this powerful and emotional song in the musical is for one friend to comfort another for the loss of a loved one. Julie Jordan, the main character, is dealing with the death of her husband Billy Bigelow, and the words, sung to her by cousin Nettie Fowler, are seen to sooth her pain, made all the worse as she’d never told him that she loved him. In the scene above you can see how Jordan attempts to sing it herself as a sign of strength but is unable to continue, hence Fowler’s intervention. It’s later reprised as a song of encouragement for a class of graduates.

How did You’ll Never Walk Alone become part of Liverpool FC?

So, how does a broadway musical hit arrive at an English football ground? I hear you ask. Well, it just so happens that a very young Gerry Marsden saw the film and really enjoyed the song. That lad from Liverpool went on to form the band Gerry and the Pacemakers and in 1963 recorded their own cover version, the one now played out over the tannoys at Anfield before the crowd drown it out. Below is the official video.

Now back in those days, there were plenty of big music artists coming from Merseyside and they’d often be chosen as pre-match entertainment, and fans would sing along as they awaited their heroes. Had things turned out differently, it could have been a Cilla Black number or one of the many hits from The Beatles that became the most famous football anthem in the world. As it was though, Gerry’s chart topping rendition caught the hearts and minds of the local support and it continued to be sung at Anfield and at away games long after it had run its course in the music industry.

Below is one example of the song ahead of their Champions League semi-final second leg against FC Barcelona at Anfield. The first leg ended 3-0 to the Catalans so there’s no way the Reds would go out and win 4-0 to reach the final. “Corner taken quickly...Origi!”

What other fans sing You’ll Never Walk Alone?

After the song being a chart success for Gerry and the Pacemakers, and it being heard on the Anfield terrace in the early to mid-1960s, some other fans were quick to see the value in it.

Scottish club Glasgow Celtic had played Liverpool in the semi-final of the 1966 Cup Winner Cup and the song soon took hold as their anthem. They went on to be the first British side to be crowned Champions of Europe the following season.

Further afield, and as Reds fans travelled the continent with their team’s success, other clubs began to take note. These days, Borussia Dortmund, FC Twente and Feyenoord are among a host of venues where you will hear the familiar tune, including in parts of Asian such as Japan and Indonesia.

Of course, other anthems do exist...

What are the lyrics to You’ll Never Walk Alone?

So, I opened this article with the first couple of lines from the incredibly powerful anthem, and you’ve likely listened to a couple of versions of it as you worked your way down to here. Well, if you’d like to join in the next time you’re at a Liverpool game, and attempt to feel the immense power that this song represents, learn these words ahead of time.

When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high

And don’t be afraid of the dark

At the end of a 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 alone, you’ll never walk alone

Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart

And you’ll never walk alone, you’ll never walk alone

Oh, and remember to hold your scarf above your head.

When will Liverpool fans next be singing You’ll Never Walk Alone?

If old YouTube footage is not enough for you and hearing thousands of Reds fans singing live is what you want, then you don’t have to wait long. On Saturday 28 May, Liverpool will face Real Madrid, two of the most successful clubs ever, in the final of the 2021/22 Champions League.

Before kick-off and around the full-time whistle you can be assured a passionate and spine-tingling rendition - with maybe a few tears thrown in for good measure, given the importance of the biggest club game in the world. As you’d expect, we’ll have all the build-up and live action right here on AS USA.


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