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The Pretender by Jackson Browne

An old song from 1975 sounds fresh for these times. Pay attention. It will be on the Final.

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?”

But now the song is about so much more than that question alone. And the question is still open.

“The Pretender”

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
Say it again

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

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
where 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?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Dirk January 15, 2021, 5:02 PM

    Oooo wow, as a youth say Jackson at RedRocks, unreal. As a young adult, at CalExpo Sacramento, then at a very smaller venue in Roseville Ca. Was with Elvin Bishop at that gig, would have been 84ish..

    Like fine wine Jackson Brown gets better and better. He’s on my latest bucket list hoping to catch him in a Reno. Or South Tahoe gig, in the near future.

  • Kommando Ganowicz January 15, 2021, 8:48 PM

    Worried about what you could lose?
    You have already lost.

  • Veeze January 16, 2021, 8:32 AM

    Sure, Browne is a great songwriter and lyricist, but your praise is misplaced.

    Having a job and a family isn’t the life for everybody, but why denigrate it? To give such a life your best effort is quite honorable. Just as I would tell AOC, BLM, and all the other harpies, quit complaining and look around you at the wonders such people have built.

    And if not that path, then what? Well, you could reside in a refrigerator box under the freeway, as then you sure as hell don’t have to “struggle for the legal tender,” and you’ll have plenty of time to “find life’s best qualities.”

  • SgtBob January 16, 2021, 3:09 PM

    Twenty-nine in 1975, got my degree, four-plus years of Army and three years of dogging life behind me. Five years later, I learned more lessons, two kids and another on the way, when elections came around and Reagan got my vote. A wife, kids and paying for things will bring a man to his senses. Make your choices and continue the march.