Song Lyric Sunday – The Pretender

It was an easy choice for me this week when I saw the prompts for Song Lyric Sunday. Jim Adams, our host, handed the prompt reins to Angie Trafford for her suggestions. She has given us Fraud, Hypocrite, Phony, Pretender and Snob. I instantly thought of The Pretender by Jackson Browne. An old favorite that I just happened to hear few days ago. I hope you enjoy it.

The Song

This song is about a man who gives up his dreams and lives a life of routine monotony in order to accumulate money. He is the pretender.

In a 1997 interview with Mojo magazine, Browne said of this song: “I’m a big fan of ambiguity and its bountiful rewards, and ‘The Pretender’ is two things at once. It’s that person in all of us that has a higher ideal, and the part that has settled for compromise – like Truffaut says, there’s the movie you set out to make, and there’s the one you settle for. But in a more serious way, ‘The Pretender’ is about ’60s idealism, the idea of life being about love and brotherhood, justice, social change and enlightenment, those concepts we were flooded with as our generation hit its stride; and how, later, we settled for something quite different. So when I say ‘Say a prayer for The Pretender,’ I’m talking about those people who are trying to convince themselves that there really was nothing to that idealism.”

Browne’s first wife, Phyllis, committed suicide in the spring of 1976, but in the wake of the tragedy he recorded his commercial breakthrough album, The Pretender. The record climbed into the Top 10 upon its fall 1976 release, going platinum in the spring of 1977.

This appears on the soundtrack of the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus.

Browne said in Rolling Stone, October 16, 2008: “‘The Pretender’ took a long time. It’s not that I worked on it every day; I was reluctant to finish it before I had gotten all there was out of it. Songwriting is a search. Most of my songs set up a bunch of questions, and it takes a while to answer them.”

Jackson Browne told Mojo magazine in 2015: “It’s grappling with the question of whether the life you’re living is the life you thought you were heading for. ‘The Pretender’ is an open question: Do you find life’s best qualities by having children and a job, or in tearing those things down?”

The Lyrics

I'm going to rent myself a house
In the shade of the freeway
Gonna pack my lunch in the morning
And go to work each day
And when the evening rolls around
I'll go on home and lay my body down
And when the morning light comes streaming in
I'll get up and do it again
Amen
Say it again
Amen

I want to know what became of the changes
We waited for love to bring
Were they only the fitful dreams
Of some greater awakening
I've been aware of the time going by
They say in the end it's the wink of an eye
When the morning light comes streaming in
You'll get up and do it again
Amen

Caught between the longing for love
And the struggle for the legal tender
Where the sirens sing and the church bells ring
And the junk man pounds his fender
Where the veterans dream of the fight
Fast asleep at the traffic light
And the children solemnly wait
For the ice cream vendor
Out into the cool of the evening
Strolls the Pretender
He knows that all his hopes and dreams
Begin and end there

Ah the laughter of the lovers
As they run through the night
Leaving nothing for the others
But to choose off and fight
And tear at the world with all their might
While the ships bearing their dreams
Sail out of sight

I'm gonna find myself a girl
Who can show me what laughter means
And we'll fill in the missing colors
In each other's paint by number dreams
And then we'll put our dark glasses on
And we'll make love until our strength is gone
And when the morning light comes streaming in
We'll get up and do it again
Get it up again

I'm gonna be a happy idiot
And struggle for the legal tender
Where the ads take aim and lay their claim
To the heart and the soul of the spender
And believe in whatever may lie
In those things that money can buy
Thought true love could have been a contender
Are you there
Say a prayer for the Pretender
Who started out so young and strong
Only to surrender

Say a prayer for the pretender
Are you there for the pretender
Say a prayer for the pretender
Are you there for the pretender
Are you prepared for the pretender

Writer/s: Jackson Browne 
Publisher: FLAT TOWN MUSIC CO., A DIV. OF SWALLOW PUBLICATIONS, INC.
Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind

  21 comments for “Song Lyric Sunday – The Pretender

  1. September 18, 2021 at 1:48 am

    Lovely song! <3 <3 <3

  2. August 30, 2021 at 6:21 pm

    I love Jackson Brown… great choice!💃🏼🎶💕

    • Christine Bolton
      September 4, 2021 at 10:57 am

      Thanks so much. Yes I’m a big fan too ☺️💕

  3. August 30, 2021 at 11:17 am

    Great song and artist. Thanks for the listen!

    • Christine Bolton
      September 4, 2021 at 10:57 am

      Thanks Michael. Yes JB is great isn’t he? ☺️

  4. Anonymous
    August 29, 2021 at 6:10 pm

    Love this choice

    • Christine Bolton
      September 4, 2021 at 10:54 am

      Thank you ☺️

  5. Anonymous
    August 29, 2021 at 2:20 pm

    Perfect for the prompt. I’ve always enjoyed Jackson Brown

    • August 29, 2021 at 2:22 pm

      No idea why I’m anonymous

      • Christine Bolton
        August 29, 2021 at 7:27 pm

        That happens to me sometimes. When I use the WP app it tells me I’m not signed in and it shows my comment as anonymous. Really annoying. When you start working in the app, it lets you, up them decides you are not signed in. WP says it’s Apple’s fault. I bet they’d say it was WP’s 😧

    • Christine Bolton
      August 29, 2021 at 7:29 pm

      Thanks Jily☺️💕

  6. August 29, 2021 at 12:28 pm

    Great choice today, Christine.

    • Christine Bolton
      August 29, 2021 at 7:30 pm

      Thank you Maggie! I love Jackson Browne ☺️❤️

  7. August 29, 2021 at 9:05 am

    This is really a beautiful song Christine, thanks for selecting it. The older I get, the more it seems like life goes by the wink of an eye.

    • Christine Bolton
      August 29, 2021 at 1:54 pm

      Thanks Jim. It all seems so long ago now. He had a point. Many of the 60s radicals ended up being staunch republicans 😳. I love this song.

  8. August 29, 2021 at 5:45 am

    Great choice I really like it 💜

    • Christine Bolton
      September 4, 2021 at 10:54 am

      Thanks Willow ☺️💕

      • September 4, 2021 at 11:46 am

        💜💜

  9. August 29, 2021 at 4:03 am

    Awesome choice!!! Grew up listening to JB’s music! This is the first time I’ve heard about his wife though… tragic 🙁

  10. August 29, 2021 at 2:11 am

    As a big fan of Jackson Browne,I was going to use this same song, but I had already used it as a SLS choice in December 2017, so ended up with a different song.

  11. August 29, 2021 at 12:27 am

    JB is a wonderful choice 🎶💜

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