Rock, patriotism and city anthems

Large iron gates decorated with a coat of arms featuring a Liver bird above the words 'You'll never walk alone' in gold

The gates to Liverpool Football Club's stadium at Anfield
© Ronald Hortensius

Anthems are songs that encourage participation, usually the collective singing of crowds but also collective movements such as clapping, waving or swaying. Many songs have become city anthems. They may be songs that have been specifically written to celebrate a city and demonstrate a sense of local pride, or songs that have been appropriated as city anthems and often adapted in some way.

According to the musicologist Ruth Dockwray (2005), for a song to become an anthem various musical and social factors must be present. Anthems are generally songs containing short, descending melodies that are repeated and that most people find easy to sing along to. In addition the lyrics often include terms that suggest collectivity or togetherness.

These points can be illustrated by two songs that have become anthems for Liverpool and Liverpool football fans. The singing of such anthems encourages expressions of collective identity and helps supporters to feel united and connected to the team. It also contributes to the atmosphere of football games and to the sense of occasion.

'You'll Never Walk Alone'

'You'll Never Walk Alone' has been performed by many different artists but it was originally a show tune from the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Carousel. The song is performed during the graduation finale of the musical and has since become a standard, sung by classes across the United States. The song is also sung at football clubs around the world although the words are not usually adapted in any way. This tradition began at Liverpool football club after the song was performed and released by the Liverpool group Gerry and the Pacemakers in 1963. The song is usually sung by the football supporters just before the start of each home game. The words 'You'll Never Walk Alone' also feature in the crest of Liverpool football club and on the Shankly Gate entrance to Liverpool's Anfield stadium.

As Dockwray (2005) points out, the song title alone encourages a sense of collectivity. The football crowds usually sing a simplified version of the song, which makes it easier to sing and helps the crowds to sing it with more power and conviction. Most important for the fans are the ascending and descending melodies of the final chorus. The musicologist Theo Van Leeuwen (1998) argues that ascending melodic lines can help to make a song feel heroic and to rally listeners together, encouraging a sense of patriotism. Dockwray draws upon this to show how the final chorus of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' features a melody that rises in pitch before descending back to the tonic note. When it is sung by Liverpool football supporters the volume of their singing increases as the melody rises, until the song reaches its climax and the word 'never' is sung on the highest note, helping to make the song feel positive and uplifting.

'Heart as Big as Liverpool'

'Heart as Big as Liverpool' has also been adopted as an anthem for the Liverpool football team. The song was released in 1998 by Pete Wylie whose sense of pride and patriotism in his home city is evident in the song's title. The song is again heroic in style. One fan, for example, describes the song's choruses as 'surging':

"building and swelling like an opera, bathed in sympathetic strings, absolutely chock-full of hooks and fist-raising, arm-pumping moments: it's no surprise that this song gets a lot of airtime at Anfield whenever Liverpool are playing at home." (Blog post on Songs without which)