Gerry Marsden, leader of Gerry & the Pacemakers has died at the age of 78. The news was announced on January 3 by a Liverpool based broadcaster, stating that Marsden died following a short illness stemming from a heart infection. Marsden's death was subsequently confirmed by the BBC. Gerry & the Pacemakers were known for hits like "You’ll Never Walk Alone" and "Ferry Cross the Mersey" and shot to fame as a Merseybeat band at a time when Liverpool was the centre of the musical universe.
Marsden formed Gerry & the Pacemaker in Liverpool in the late 1950s as the Mars-Bars. The original lineup included Gerry's brother Fred Marsden on drums, Les Chadwick on bass, and Arthur Mack on piano. In 1961, Les McGuire replaced Mack. Next to being lead vocalist, Marsden wrote a fair amount of the Pacemakers' material, including singles like 1963’s “I’m the One” and 1964’s “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying.”
In 1962, the Pacemakers became the second band designed to be signed by Brian Epstein, following the Beatles. Their studio debut, 1963’s How Do You Like It?, was recorded under the direction of George Martin. Gerry and the Pacemakers played regularly alongside the Beatles. McCartney paid tribute to Marsden on social media following the news of his death;
“Gerry was a mate from our early days in Liverpool. He and his group were our biggest rivals on the local scene,” he wrote. “My sympathies go to his wife Pauline and family. See ya, Gerry. I’ll always remember you with a smile.”
Sir Ringo Starr tweeted: “God bless Jerry Marsden peace and love to all his family.” He then tweeted: “Gerry. Gerry.”
Gerry & The Pacemakers topped the British charts in 1963 with their first three singles, How Do You Do It?, I Like It and You’ll Never Walk Alone, a Rodgers and Hammerstein composition from the musical Carousel. The song became a national anthem of Liverpool FC, sung form the Kop at every game.
Marsden’s family said in a statement on Sunday:
“Gerry died earlier today after a short illness in no way connected with Covid-19. His wife, daughters and grandchildren are devastated.”
Marsden went into the hospital on Boxing Day after tests showed he had a serious blood infection that had travelled to his heart. His daughter Yvette Marbeck told the PA news agency:
“My sister Vicky and myself have always been very, very proud of Dad … He was our hero, wonderful.”
“It was a very short illness and too quick to comprehend really. And his heart has taken some battering over the years. He had a triple bypass, an aortic valve replacement and ironically he also had a pacemaker.
“I am just devastated and heartbroken. Unfortunately, he died in hospital, which was devastating for us because we were not allowed in due to the current regulations.”
Marsden marries his wife, Pauline, in 1965 and the couple had two daughters.
At the start of the lockdown in March, his version of You’ll Never Walk Alone re-entered the charts, after he encouraged people to sing it from their doorsteps during the weekly Clap for our Carers. Rest in peace Gerry.