Jackson Browne’s “The Pretender” Will Take You Back To Dreams You’ve Left Behind

Jackson Browne’s “The Pretender” Will Take You Back To Dreams You’ve Left Behind | Society Of Rock Videos

YouTube via themusicfan34

Soundstage, 1976

In 1976, at age 28 and still reeling from the death of his wife Phyllis, singer-songwriter Jackson Browne made his return to the stage with his iconic Soundstage appearance, featuring a performance of ‘The Pretender’ that no doubt held a drastically different meaning for him; suddenly he isn’t just a musician anymore, he’s a young man grappling with the tragedy of his wife’s suicide while trying to juggle life as a single father, wondering if it was still worth it to keep pursuing his craft. By the looks of this absolutely outstanding performance, however, it’s pretty clear that Jackson had already made up his mind to hold onto his dreams and swing for the fences, regardless of how tempting it would be to just slip right into the life of ‘The Pretender’.

Written in 1976 and featured on his 4th album The Pretender, Jackson told Mojo magazine in 2015 of ‘The Pretender’:

“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?”

Jackson Browne has crafted a decades-long career out of calling attention to the ludicrous things we do to survive. Whether it’s the running after the impossible and unattainable of ‘Runnin’ On Empty’ or in this case, abandoning your wildest dreams in exchange for the cookie-cutter American Dream that is ‘The Pretender,’ there isn’t a moment of Jackson Browne’s career that doesn’t get deep down into your soul and make you wonder exactly what it is you’re doing with your life.

+ The Pretender lyrics +

I’m going to rent myself a house
In the shade of the freeway
I’m going to 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
And 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 going to 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 going to 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
Though 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

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