You'll Never Walk Alone" is a show tune from the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel. In the second act of the musical, Nettie Fowler, the cousin of the protagonist Julie Jordan, sings "You'll Never Walk Alone" to comfort and encourage Julie when her husband, Billy Bigelow, the male lead, falls on his knife and dies after a failed robbery attempt. It is reprised in the final scene to encourage a graduation class of which Louise (Billy and Julie's daughter) is a member. The now invisible Billy, who has been granted the chance to return to Earth for one day in order to redeem himself, watches the ceremony and is able to silently motivate the unhappy Louise to join in the song.
The song is also sung at association football clubs around the world, where it is performed by a massed chorus of supporters on match day; this tradition developed at Liverpool F.C. after the chart success of the 1963 single of the song by the local Liverpool group Gerry and the Pacemakers. In some areas of the UK and Europe, "You'll Never Walk Alone" became the anthem of support for medical staff, first responders, and those in quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Christine Johnson, who created the role of Nettie Fowler, introduced the song in the original Broadway production. Later in the show Jan Clayton, as Julie Jordan, reprised it, with the chorus joining in.
Besides the recordings of the song on the Carousel cast albums and the film soundtrack, the song has been recorded by many artists, with notable hit versions made by Roy Hamilton, Frank Sinatra, Roy Orbison, Billy Eckstine, Patti Labelle & The Bluebelles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Lee Towers, Judy Garland, Gene Vincent, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Andy Williams, Glen Campbell, Johnny Maestro and The Brooklyn Bridge, Olivia Newton-John and Doris Day. Progressive rock group Pink Floyd took a recording by the Liverpool Kop choir, and "interpolated" it into their own song, "Fearless", on their 1971 album Meddle.
From 1964 to 2010, Jerry Lewis concluded his annual Labor Day MDA Telethon by singing the song. After the end of a concert by the rock band Queen, the audience spontaneously sang this song, according to lead guitarist Brian May, and this helped to inspire the creation of their songs "We Are the Champions" and "We Will Rock You". Italian-American tenor Sergio Franchi sang a notable version accompanied by the Welsh Men's Choir on the 9 June 1968 telecast of The Ed Sullivan Show. He also covered this song in his 1964 RCA Victor album The Exciting Voice of Sergio Franchi.
In 1990 at the Nelson Mandela: An International Tribute for a Free South Africa concert at Wembley Stadium, London, the audience spontaneously broke out into a mass rendition. Mandela turned to Adelaide Tambo who accompanied him onto the stage and asked what the song was. She replied, "A football song".
In 1998, the version by musical group The Three Tenors peaked at number 46 on the Top 100 Singles of the Official German Charts on the week ending July 20 and number 35 on the UK Singles Chart on the week ending July 25.
American singer Barbra Streisand performed this song in a surprise appearance at the close of the 2001 Emmy Awards, in honor of the victims of the September 11 attacks. To mark the first anniversary of the attacks, Renée Fleming sang the song at the Concert for America. Fleming sang the song again at the Inauguration of Barack Obama on January 20, 2009.
In 2010, the song was sung during the Last Night of the Proms, with the choir at the Royal Albert Hall in London joined by crowds of the public from Hillsborough Castle, Northern Ireland; Caird Hall, Dundee; Hyde Park, London; Salford, Greater Manchester; and Wales, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Oscar Hammerstein II.
It has been the song of the Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps song since 1954, where they first performed it as a part of their first field show in 1954. Challenged by the Rosemont Cavaliers singing "Over the Rainbow" in 1957, the corps responded with "You'll Never Walk Alone", and it has been the official corps song ever since.
Punk band Dropkick Murphys covered the song for their 2017 album 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory. Vocalist/bassist Ken Casey said in a December 2016 interview discussing the reason behind their version. "As you may know, opiate overdoses are an epidemic in America now particularly in (the Boston) area. I've been to thirty wakes in two years, three this week, one being my cousin, Al's lost a brother in law. It's hit home close to us. I was leaving one of the wakes and this song came on and as I was listening to the lyrics it summed up exactly how I was feeling. Sad, but knowing there is hope. You never have to be alone. I hope you like our version".
In 2020, Dutch radio DJ Sander Hogendoorn called radio stations throughout the country to air the song simultaneously to support people affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Stations from other European countries joined him; a total of 183 radio stations across the globe, as well as football stadiums throughout Europe, played a version of You'll Never Walk Alone. Hoogendoorn's station 3FM later held a week-long fundraising campaign named after the song to support the Red Cross during the pandemic, collecting €307.392.- for the charity. During the pandemic, Dutch public stations have regularly aired idents with Gerry and the Pacemakers' version of the song serving as background music. In November 2020, Andrea Bocelli released an album in response to the CoVID pandemic and included “You’ll Never Walk Alone” in the album.
In the UK, the song's most successful cover was released in 1963 by the Liverpudlian Merseybeat group Gerry and the Pacemakers, peaking at number one on the UK Singles Chart for four consecutive weeks. The band's version also reached the top of the charts in Australia, Ireland and New Zealand.
After becoming a chart hit by a local band, the song gained popularity on the Anfield terraces, and the song quickly became the football anthem of Liverpool F.C., which adopted "You'll Never Walk Alone" as its official motto on its coat of arms. The song is sung by its supporters moments before the start of each home game at Anfield with the Gerry and the Pacemakers version being played over the public address system. In 2013, the 50th anniversary of the song being sung on the Kop, Simon Hart of The Independent writes, "Five decades on, the pre-match, scarfs-raised, sing-it-loud ritual is as much a part of Liverpool's fabric as their red shirts, its words written in wrought iron on the gates of their stadium."
According to former player Tommy Smith, lead vocalist Gerry Marsden presented Liverpool manager Bill Shankly with a recording of his forthcoming cover single during a pre-season coach trip in the summer of 1963. "Shanks was in awe of what he heard. ... Football writers from the local newspapers were travelling with our party and, thirsty for a story of any kind between games, filed copy back to their editors to the effect that we had adopted Gerry Marsden's forthcoming single as the club song." The squad was subsequently invited to perform the track with the band on The Ed Sullivan Show with Marsden stating, "Bill came up to me. He said, 'Gerry my son, I have given you a football team and you have given us a song'."
Shankly picked the song as his eighth and final selection for the BBC's Desert Island Discs on the eve of the 1965 FA Cup Final. As Liverpool fans sang "You'll Never Walk Alone" at Wembley during the 1965 FA Cup Final win over Leeds, commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme referred to it as "Liverpool's signature tune". Marsden told BBC Radio how, in the 1960s, the disc jockey at Anfield would play the top ten commercial records in descending order, with the number one single played last, shortly before kickoff. Liverpool fans on the Kop would sing along, but unlike with other hit singles, once "You'll Never Walk Alone" dropped out of the top ten, instead of disregarding the song, supporters continued to sing it. In retirement, as his granddaughter Karen Gill recollects, Shankly would get out the gramophone and "put the record on and play it, so we would hear it in the house."
The 'Shankly Gates' entrance to Liverpool's home stadium Anfield
There's not one club in Europe with an anthem like "You'll Never Walk Alone." There's not one club in the world so united with the fans. I sat there watching the Liverpool fans and they sent shivers down my spine. A mass of 40,000 people became one force behind their team.
In his commentary on the memorial service following the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, Peter Jones recited the lyrics, which were then sung by a cathedral choir. Aretha Franklin's recording of the song was played by John Peel in his first show following the disaster, when he became too upset to carry on broadcasting for a period. In 2019, during a Take That concert at Anfield, lead singer and Liverpool fan Gary Barlow brought out a guest vocalist, Gerry Marsden – who had come out of retirement for the performance – and they sang the club's anthem "You'll Never Walk Alone".
In 1995, the Gerry and the Pacemakers version peaked at number thirty-four on the Dutch Single Top 100 on the week ending March 18 and number twenty-four on the Dutch Top 40 on the week ending April 1. It re-entered the Irish Singles Chart in 2012, peaking at number four on the week ending 20 September.
"It was subsequently adopted by Celtic fans, after a 1966 Cup Winners' Cup semi-final at Anfield, and is sung today by fans of Borussia Dortmund and several other clubs, but 'YNWA' remains enduringly and indelibly linked with Liverpool."
The song was adopted by Scottish team Celtic after a 1966 Cup Winners' Cup semi-final against Liverpool at Anfield, and is now sung by Celtic fans prior to every home European tie, and later by Germany's Borussia Dortmund, which Liverpool went on to play in the cup final. When Celtic and Liverpool played in the quarterfinals of the 2002-03 UEFA Cup, Gerry Marsden performed the song at Celtic Park before both teams took the field and both sets of fans sang along.
The song has also been adopted by Dutch team FC Twente after it was officially given to them by the Anfield stadium speaker George Sephton during the last game in the Diekman stadium, before moving to the new Arke Stadion. Today, Twente fans sing the song before every home game. Elsewhere in the Netherlands, Feyenoord and SC Cambuur have adopted the song as well.
Additional football teams which now use the song include 1. FSV Mainz 05, TSV 1860 Munich, Austria's FC Admira Wacker, Belgium's Club Brugge KV and KV Mechelen, Japan's FC Tokyo, Spain's CD Lugo, and Greece's PAOK. In ice hockey, the song has been adopted by German Deutsche Eishockey Liga side Krefeld Pinguine and Croatian Medveščak Zagreb.
A special recording of the song was made in solidarity with Bradford City following the Valley Parade fire in 1985, when 56 spectators died and many more were seriously injured. The song was performed by The Crowd, which was a supergroup featuring Gerry Marsden, Paul McCartney and others, and spent two weeks at number one in the UK.
Some years later, after witnessing a rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone" at Anfield in 2007, the President of the Spanish Olympic Committee, Alejandro Blanco, said he felt inspired to seek lyrics to his country's wordless national anthem, the Marcha Real, ahead of Madrid's bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games.
During the 2014 Hong Kong protests, legislator Tam Yiu Chung quoted the song during a Legislative Council of Hong Kong meeting, to salute the Hong Kong Police, who had received widespread criticism for using excessive force against pro-democracy protesters. More than 2,000 Liverpool Football Club fans in Hong Kong condemned his inappropriate use of the song, comparing his support of the police action to the police actions in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, where South Yorkshire Police were found to have distorted facts relating to the unlawful killing by negligence of 96 Liverpool supporters.
On 13 March 2016, after Borussia Dortmund's 2–0 win against 1. FSV Mainz 05 in the German Bundesliga, supporters of both teams performed the song to commemorate a Dortmund fan who died from a cardiac arrest in the stands during the game.