This Rogers & Hammerstein song was originally written for the 1945 musical Carousel. It was sung in the original show by Christine Johnson.
Frank Sinatra was the first artist to take this song into the charts (#9 on the Billboard charts in 1945). It soon became popular as many who had lost loved ones during the war took solace in the lyrics. Judy Garland recorded a well known version, and in the 1950s several American rock n rollers sang it including Conway Twitty, Gene Vincent and Johnny Preston.
Gerry & the Pacemakers had included the song in their stage act for a long time. When they decided to record it as their third single, producer George Martin enhanced the song by adding strings. When it topped the UK chart, they became the first act to reach #1 in the UK with their first 3 singles. Soon afterwards it was adopted by the fans of Liverpool Football Club as the club's anthem.
In 1985 a version by The Crowd in aid of the Bradford City Football Club fire disaster returned the song to #1. Gerry Marsden of Gerry & the Pacemakers was again the lead vocalist. Zack Starkey, Ringo Starr's son, was on drums, making him and Ringo the first father and son to both have UK #1s.
In the original musical Carousel, the song was sung to inspire a pregnant female character after the death of her husband. (thanks, Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England, for all above)
The song is also performed at a graduation ceremony during the final scene of Carousel, which made it a popular choice for real-life graduation ceremonies.
A banner containing the song's title was added to the Liverpool Football Club's official emblem. The song is typically sung just before the start of home games. A number of other football (i.e. soccer) clubs across Europe have also adopted the song, as have a few teams in other sports.
The Pink Floyd song Fearless ends by fading into a recording of Liverpool Football Club fans singing this song.
Elvis Presley covered this song for his 1960 gospel album His Hand in Mine. (thanks, Joshua - Twin Cities, MN, for above 4)
Following a damning report into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster in which 96 football fans died, Liverpool Walton MP Steve Rotheram started a campaign to get this song back into the UK charts. As a result it returned to the UK top 20 in September 2012 with the proceeds being donated to Hillsborough-related charities.