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Music and the Premier League

Music and the Premier League
Shannon Bennitt ‘25, Arts Editor

The Premier League is one of the most competitive professional soccer leagues in the history of the sport, and aside from the brilliant play on the pitch, the significance of the game’s culture cannot be overstated. Although the league was not established until February 20, 1992, many of the teams in the league today have been around for decades or even a century longer, building a deep and rich history that many American supporters may not be aware of. For instance, the top five teams in the league right now — Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Aston Villa, and Tottenham — were all founded before 1900, and unlike many American teams, they almost always stayed in the same location, creating a century-old communities of supporters.
And as with any fanbase, with community comes culture, particularly in English football, where the sport is not only a game but a way of life. One of the most fascinating examples of this culture is in team chants and songs. When watching a Premier League match, many spectators will notice that throughout the entire match, no matter the team, the fans in the stadium sing. These anthems are the beating heart of the game and each individual match. They bring life, passion, and love to the game. Below is the history and significance of several of the most famous club songs in the Premier League.
#1: “Glory, Glory, Man United” of Manchester United. Although many teams have vied for the ownership of this song, it is iconically the anthem of Manchester’s oldest club. The song has roots in the United States, inspired by the American folk song “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” that originated during the Civil War. The “Man United” version of this song was coined in 1983, when the team released it prior to an Football Association Challenge Cup. It was composed by Frank Renshaw and recorded by himself, his friends, and his sons. The song skyrocketed to popularity among United fans, and in 2007 became the official anthem of Old Trafford, the historic stadium of United, when it was recorded by The World Red Army. The song embodies the unity, pride, and determination that makes soccer such a special sport and United such an extraordinary club. The energy of tens of thousands of people all singing “United, Man United, we’re the boys in red and we’re on our way to Wembley!” in Old Trafford would surely be unforgettable.
#2: “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” of West Ham United. The waltz was composed by Americans John Kellette and Jaan Kenbrovin (a collective pseudonym for writers James Kendis, James Brockman, and Nat Vincent) and released in 1918, and instantly became a hit. Since its debut, it has been covered by many of the major artists and bands of the 1920s. The introduction of the anthem into West Ham was a unique event, characteristic of the random development of culture of the Premier League. A player for the local Park School in East London, the home of West Ham, Billy Murray, was nicknamed “Bubbles,” and when the team performed admirably, headmaster Cornelius Beal would often sing his own version of the song in celebration. Beal was close with West Ham manager Charlie Paynter and several of the players, and fans of the professional club took it upon themselves to sing the song in honor of their club. An unusually melancholy anthem, the lyrics go, “I’m forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in the air, they fly so high, they reach the sky, and like my dreams they fade and die!” Any fan of the Prem, or likely any team of any sport, would recognize the dramatic despair of fans as they bemoan their favorite team during times of defeat. It is practically tradition of English fans to never be satisfied with their club, so much so in West Ham, apparently, that their battle cry is more gloomy than inspiring. Despite the discouraging nature of the song, however, West Ham fans sing it loud and proud, reflecting their unwavering support through failure and success. A special and iconic tradition has also come out of this song, as before matches at London Stadium, West Ham’s home, tens of thousands of fans blow bubbles from their seats.
#3: “You’ll Never Walk Alone” of Liverpool. Unquestionably the most renowned English football anthem, the song was written by Oscar Hammerstein and composed by Richard Rodgers for the music Carousel, released in the United States in 1945. Like “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles,” YNWA inspired a series of cover versions — most importantly, as it turned out, one by Gerry and the Pacemakers in 1963, which stood at number one in the UK charts for four weeks. Shortly after, the song was adopted by Liverpool. Tommy Smith, a Liverpool player at the time, said manager Bill Shankly was “in awe of what he heard” when lead singer Gerry Marsden first introduced him to the song. It is no wonder why YNWA is as famous as it is. Beginning with “When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high, and don’t be afraid of the dark,” it is a powerful and resounding anthem of resilience through pain and loss, of overcoming adversity together. It is also an example of how soccer transcends the pitch: the words unite people of all struggles, and invite all to “walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain,” reminding them that “at the end of a storm, there’s a golden sky.” The song can be heard loud and clear throughout Anfield, Liverpool’s stadium, before every kickoff, as fans sing their hearts out. The song is an indispensable part of English football and the culture of the game as a whole, and supporters at Anfield are proud to call it their own.
Honorable Mentions: “Blue Moon” of Manchester City, “Blue is the Colour” of Chelsea, “One-Nil to the Arsenal” of Arsenal, and “Oh When the Spurs go Marching In” of Tottenham.
Each and every club has an abundant and fascinating history worth exploring, and music is a constant source of history and inspiration for each one of them. This music is part of what makes the Premier League so exciting, dynamic, and authentic. Through bitter rivalries, devastating losses, and unlikely victories, the soccer world is united under music, and that is undeniably a beautiful thing.

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