Suggest a Songfact / Artistfact
Album: The PretenderReleased: 1976Charted:
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?"