One Song/Three Versions – You’ll Never Walk Alone

I did the backpack thing around Europe a number of years back with my friend Steve. (Still friends – texted him yesterday). In London, I wandered into a pub where there was this big guy at the piano surrounded by dozens of people all singing this song. I had no idea why. I figured it out later. If you don’t know, read on. 

Wikipedia: “‘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.”

That was in 1945, right near the end of WWII in Europe. I don’t know if this song reflected the optimism of the times but it’s certainly been inspirational in ways Rodgers and Hammerstein could never have imagined.

The original cast included Bonnie Raitt’s father John as Billy Bigelow. And so interestingly, his character as mentioned above is the inspiration for this song. The song in the original cast was sung by an opera singer named Christine Johnson who I confess I never heard of.

But in my One Song/Three Versions things I always try to find the original. So here ’tis:

I couldn’t find that version on Spotify. In the film, the first version is sung by another lost-to-history singer named Claramae Turner. (The woman who is bawling through it initially is Shirley Jones then our gal Claramae takes over):

Spotify link

The song remained popular, largely due to the popularity of the play and a variety of covers including ones by artists as diverse as Elvis Presley, Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra.

But for our purposes, the one I want to mention here is the version by Liverpool’s Gerry and the Pacemakers which was released at the height of (pre-US) Beatlemania. The Pacemakers – like just about all British Invasion bands – were popular in the US but I don’t recall the song having much of an impact here.

Apparently Gerry Marsden had been a fan of the musical growing up and they had been performing it as part of their live set. You can see how they changed it from an operatic tour-de-force almost into a 50’s-sounding pop tune. It shot to Number One in the UK singles chart:

Spotify link

The Liverpool Football Club quickly adopted it as their theme song. Jerry Lewis used to host a wildly popular yearly telethon in the States to raise money for muscular dystrophy and he would always sing the tune at the end of the show.

Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes recently did her version of this tune, doubtless to help us through this COVID bullshit. Or maybe the election. Or maybe just the shithole year known as 2020. Whatever. It both rocks and is powerful:

Spotify link

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 is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Tho’ your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk
You’ll never walk
You’ll never, ever walk alone

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Tho’ your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never, ever
You’ll never, you’ll never walk
Alone

 

 

12 thoughts on “One Song/Three Versions – You’ll Never Walk Alone

  1. I first heard of this off Pink Floyd’s Fearless (Meddle album). I wasn’t at all a soccer fan (sorry, Europeans) so hadn’t a clue that this was Liverpool FC’s song at the time.

    Yes, Brittany Howard rocks it. And I chuckled at the Johnny Walker ad bit at the end of the video; a 2020 coping aid?

    Like

    1. I’ve yet to read about any British rocker who wasn’t a rabid follower of some football team. As to the Johnny Walker ad, the ice thing about booze is you can both drown your sorrows in it and use it to celebrate the good times. It’s the all-purpose drink!

      Like

  2. Oddly enough not a single member of Floyd supported Liverpool (or gave much of a cack about football) but my guess is you stumbled into a pub full of Liverpool supporters. You have my sympathies.

    Both Cash and Presley have taken a punt at this one and of the three here I think Brittany Howard’s version is the better take. Though I think only Dropkick Murphys manage to shake some life into an otherwise (for me) dull tune

    Like

    1. Dropkick Murphys. Local heroes. Yes I managed to escape the pub in one piece. They were such, such .. hooligans!

      As to Floyd, they never heard a random snippet they couldn’t use. As to the song. I actually find it rather stirring.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Say, old chap, while we’re talking about it, what’s your own sporting preference. Football? Or do you prefer a bit of the old sticky wicket from your days at Eton? Perhaps a little polo on the side with Jeff?

      Like

What would you say?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.