Gerry Marsden, frontman with Merseybeat icons Gerry & The Pacemakers has died aged 78 following a short illness.
Broadcaster Pete Price announced the news on social media with a loving tribute to his friend, who passed away after he suffered with an infection in his heart.
He wrote: “It’s with a very heavy heart after speaking to the family that I have to tell you the legendary Gerry Marsden MBE after a short illness which was an infection in his heart has sadly passed away. Sending all the love in the world to Pauline and his family. You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
An ever-renewing anthem
Marsden was best known for hits with the Pacemakers such as “I Like It,” “How You Do It?” and their celebrated version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” That recording has been played at Liverpool Football Club and sung by the club’s fans, at its home fixtures at Anfield, for decades. It was also used during 2020 across the UK and Europe as an anthem of support for medical staff, first responders, and those in isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. The song was also covered by Lana Del Rey in 2020 for a documentary on Liverpool football club.
Devastated to hear of the passing of Gerry Marsden earlier today.
The word legend is often overused but Gerry was not only a legend, but also a very good friend of The Cavern. pic.twitter.com/74HQZP4gio
— The Cavern Club (@cavernliverpool) January 3, 2021
Along with Gerry Marsden, The Pacemakers featured Gerry’s brother Freddie Marsden, along with Les “Chad” Chadwick and Arthur McMahon. They were tipped to rival The Beatles in their early days. Marsden founded the group in 1959 and they went on to become the second group signed by The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein. The band were the first ever act to reach No.1 in the UK charts with their first three single releases. They also had substantial success during the British invasion of the US, notably with the Top 10 hits “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying” and “Ferry Cross The Mersey.”
In the spring of 1963, as the outfit topped the UK charts with “How Do You Do It,” Marsden told the New Musical Express: “I suppose you could say we’re veterans already. I’m 20 now and I started performing at 14 when I joined a youth club band. Later on I formed my own skiffle group, Gerry Marsden and the Mars Bars, and after that it was the Gerry Marsden Trio. If people think we’re good today, it’s because Merseyside is such a tough training ground. The place is bursting with talent.”
Freddie Marsden, who was the band’s drummer, died in 2006, aged 66, from cancer. He had left the group when they disbanded in 1967. The Pacemakers reformed in 1973, without Freddie, who was running a driving school by then. They also reformed in 1993 to mark the band’s 30th anniversary.
Gerry Marsden was later a fixture on television and the West End stage, but he quit show business in November 2018. He received an MBE for Services to Liverpudlian charities at Buckingham Palace in 2003, joined alongside two of his bandmates. He is believed to have helped raise more than £35 million for charity, including with the recordings he made with other artists after the Bradford City stadium fire in 1985 and after the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.
Freedom of the city
When awarded the honor by Prince Philip, the royal commented that it was nice to see the three old singers back together. Gerry famously replied: “Not so much of the old, sir!” In 2009, Marsden was also given the Freedom of the City of Liverpool for his charitable works for the city and for his contribution to Liverpudlian culture.
Tributes to Marsden have poured in online since the news of his death broke. “It is with such great sadness that we hear of Gerry Marsden’s passing,” Liverpool Football Club tweeted. “Gerry’s words will live on forever with us. You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
The Cavern Club, where the Pacemakers played nearly 200 times, also honored the musician. “Devastated to hear of the passing of Gerry Marsden earlier today,” they wrote. “The word legend is often overused but Gerry was not only a legend, but also a very good friend of The Cavern.”
Frankie Goes To Hollywood singer Holly Johnson added: “So sorry to hear about the passing of Gerry Marsden what a Liverpool legend. So glad I met him.”