Gerry Marsden, Who Led the Pacemakers During the British Invasion, Dies

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Gerry and the Pacemakers in 1964 (Gerry Marsden at center, bottom row)

Gerry Marsden, the singer who led the Liverpool band Gerry and the Pacemakers, died January 3, 2021, at 78. The news was reported by Pete Price, a friend and broadcaster.

“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,” Price wrote.

The ’60s group shared a manager and producer with the Beatles. Decades after the British Invasion, it’s easy to overlook their impact.

Gerry and the Pacemakers earned numerous top 10 singles in the U.S. including the ballads “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” and “Ferry ’Cross the Mersey” and the rocker “How Do You Do It?,” the latter also recorded (but not released) by the Beatles.

Upon hearing of Marsden’s passing, Paul McCartney remembered a “joyful time in British music.”

Related: More tributes to Marsden

In 2018, Marsden, born Sept. 24, 1942, announced his retirement after six decades in the music business. In a July 26, 2020, interview with the British tabloid, The Telegraph, the singer revealed he had two heart operations, including a triple bypass.

When the paper asked him if it’s “funny” to have a band called the Pacemakers, Marsden replied: “No. I’m wearing one, for Christ’s sake.”

Reports of his passing note that Marsden died from a heart infection.

Other hits by the group included “I Like It,” “I’ll Be There,” “It’s Gonna Be Alright” and a cover of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” from the musical Carousel. In their home country, they set a record for being the first act to reach #1 with their first three consecutive singles: “How Do You Do It?,” “I Like It” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” The latter also became a popular football anthem in the U.K., played at every home game at Liverpool’s Anfield ground.

Watch the team and its fans celebrate with the song in 2019

A Nov. 28, 2018, report in the U.K.’s Daily Mail, said Marsden, then 76, wants to spend more time with his family. “Gerry would like to say a special thank you to all his fans for the unconditional support down the years, and will sadly miss them all. He looks forward to this new chapter in his life,” said a statement from the singer.

Related: 12 “lost” British Invasion hits

Gerry Marsden formed Gerry and the Pacemakers in 1959 and they were the second band to be signed by Brian Epstein, who also arranged for George Martin to produce their recordings. Their first hit, “How Do You Do It?,” written by Mitch Murray, became their first chart-topper in Britain, on April 11, 1963, after the Beatles decided not to release their version.

In the U.S. in 1964, they first charted with “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying,” which reached #4, but their reign was brief—by the end of 1966 they were no longer scoring hits in the States, and they disbanded. Marsden starred in a few musicals in London following the split.

The group appeared on the famous rock concert film The T.A.M.I. Show, trading off songs with Chuck Berry. They also starred in their own film, Ferry Cross the Mersey, a knockoff of A Hard Day’s Night. Marsden reformed the group in 1974 and played the oldies circuit. His brother, Fred, an original member, died in 2006.

Watch Gerry and the Pacemakers perform “Ferry ‘Cross the Mersey” on The Ed Sullivan Show on April 11, 1965

Gerry Marsden’s memoir, I’ll Never Walk Alone, was published in 1993. He underwent heart surgery in 2003 and again in 2016. In 2017, Gerry Marsden collapsed onstage during a concert in the U.K., telling the audience he was scheduled to undergo knee surgery. He did not return to performing.

Related: 13 more “lost” British Invasion hits of the ’60s

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11 Comments so far

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  1. TassieG
    #1 TassieG 2 December, 2018, 00:38

    Thanks Gerry for all the great music and memories

    Reply this comment
    • speedskater10
      speedskater10 22 July, 2019, 23:46

      I remember dancing with my first girl friend when i was 13 to “Don’t let the sun catch you crying in Nova Scotia Canada.
      Gerry and the Pacemakers was my favourite band in the early 60’s. Loved the songs and the wonderful clear voice of Gerry.
      Recently,now at 71 yrs of age, bought a CD with all the hits of the band. Been playing “You”ll Never Walk Alone” over and over when driving around in my truck. That is one of the most beautiful songs i have ever heard. Nobody sings it better than Gerry Marsden. Absolutely fab. cheers

      Reply this comment
      • Rob
        Rob 25 September, 2020, 00:24

        Ferry Cross the Mersey was the first single (45) I bought back when it was first released. Happy Birthday Gerry!

        Reply this comment
  2. Hilary
    #2 Hilary 12 August, 2019, 02:52

    I too think Gerry & Pacemakers were the greatest in the 60’s better than the Beatles. I am from Liverpool. You’ll never walk alone song always brings tears to my eyes. I’m having it played at my funeral.

    Reply this comment
  3. Namdoog
    #3 Namdoog 19 April, 2020, 12:28

    sorry, but if gerry is better than the beatles, then i am too!

    Reply this comment
  4. mick62
    #4 mick62 25 September, 2020, 10:18

    “It’s Gonna Be Alright,” is still one of my big favourite songs from the 60s. I never get tired of listening to Gerry And The Pacemakers’ exciting sound. Been a fan for decades and will continue to be so.
    Best wishes to you, Gerry!

    Reply this comment
    • Music Jedi
      Music Jedi 4 January, 2021, 10:50

      Also some of the favorite songs of my youth. I think they were second only to the Beatles of the British Invasion to the US. R.I.P.

      Reply this comment
  5. RecordSteve
    #5 RecordSteve 3 January, 2021, 14:59

    Sad to hear of Gerry’s passing into gloryland=
    no more crying; no more pain. Our sympathy
    to his family & thanks for sharing him & music
    to the world. I Like It=his songs & smiling face
    will go on in the Hall of Fame & Heaven’s Rock & Roll band….

    Reply this comment
  6. Timflyte
    #6 Timflyte 4 January, 2021, 00:38

    Rest In Peace…..Gerry ….Ive loved your music since the 60s. Ive performed many of your songs over the years with various bands and people have always asked for your songs . I have all your records and this news is real upsetting for me. May God be with your family.

    Reply this comment
  7. Stick
    #7 Stick 4 January, 2021, 09:46

    What a great band. Another loss from our 60s heroes. RIP Gerry

    Reply this comment

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