YNWA-Blog #16

A song comes to Germany

To find out how the song “You’ll never walk alone” came from a stage in Budapest to Dortmund via New York, Hollywood, and Liverpool, Joachim Król spoke to singer Thomas Henneböhl and BVB fan Jan-Henrik Gruszecki.

Before we fly to Liverpool—the place where the song “You’ll never walk alone” acquired its soccer associations—we make one last stop in Dortmund, where the song has been part of the stadium ceremony since the mid-1990s. This was due not least to Thomas Henneböhl, then-singer of the band Pur Harmony, which recorded their own version of the song. We meet the BVB fan in the live music pub “B-trieb” in Dortmund’s Kreuzviertel district. A small corner of the tiny pub is cleared for the shoot, so that there is enough space for the interview.

For Joachim Król it’s a bit like coming home. “B-trieb” is his old ‘local’, where he watched the championships in 1995. At that time, the band with Thomas Henneböhl and Matthias “Kasche” Kartner was already known as BVB’s house band. In 1993, they sang their “Ole, jetzt kommt der BVB” (Ole, here comes BVB) to the melody of “Go West” (Pet Shop Boys). This cover version is still played every time BVB scores a goal in the Dortmund stadium.

By way of a welcome, Thomas Henneböhl presents Joachim Król with an original single of Pur Harmony’s version of “You’ll never walk alone.” The CD is now exactly 20 years old, having been released on November 11, 1996. Stadium announcer Norbert Dickel and the fans liked the song, and so it became part of the ceremony.

Król experienced perhaps the most poignant moment in Dortmund’s history of “You’ll never walk alone” in person in March 2016. When a fan high up in the southwest stand had a heart attack and died during the Borussia Dortmund-FSV Mainz 05 match, the sad news spread like wildfire in the two powerhouses of the fan culture—in the south stand and in the visitor block. During the second half, it was quiet in the stadium because the south stand and the visitors from Mainz refrained from cheering. Then, in the 85th minute, all struck up together “You’ll never walk alone.” This took the song back to its function in the musical “Carousel” of offering solace in a moment of deep sadness.

Next morning we head off to Oesterholzer Street, to a corner house not far from Borsigplatz. A small sign on the wall of the building reveals that it once housed the tavern “Zum Wildschütz.” On the first floor, 18 young men founded BVB on December 19, 1909. Today, BVB fan Jan-Henrik Gruszecki lives in the historic floor in the old hall of mirrors above the tavern. “The parquet floor is the original one from that time,” he tells Joachim Król with some pride.

In 2013, Gruszecki and two friends came up with the idea of making a documentary about the founding history of Borussia Dortmund and the life of one of its founders, Franz Jacobi. Shooting was to take place at original locations. When Gruszecki discovered that the rented apartment above the former dining area was to be foreclosed, he acted immediately. He now owns the entire house, and after two years of preparation, fundraising, and shooting, the DVD “Am Borsigplatz geboren—Franz Jacobi und die Wiege des BVB” was released at the end of May 2015 (more about the project at www.franz-jacobi.de).

Now that the stories from Dortmund have been told for our film, we will move on to our last stop—to FC Liverpool in the United Kingdom…