The Pretender (1976)
Any man can live a life. But not every man can live.
Am I really living? Am I following my dreams, am I working towards the goals I’ve set for myself? Will I make it? Can I make it? What if I wake up one day when I’m forty and realize this is not what I wanted, that this wasn’t right, that I squandered the one life I had, the one life that is over before I even blink?
All of these questions come flooding into my mind every time I listen to The Pretender.
This is yet another album it took me a while to come around to. I was stuck to listening to track eight, “The Pretender,” over and over, so much so that I didn’t fully listen to the whole album until months after I bought it.
Wow, what a song! I can’t describe how close “The Pretender” is to me. When I first got this album when I was eighteen, I disdained the pretender, that man who gives up on his dreams to live an ordinary life.
But now I know that chances are that man will be me. I’m still young, but I have to make the most of every day, everyday, to avoid the fate of 99 percent of the world’s population.
Everyone believes in something when they’re young. Their pockets are full of dreams, dreams that will take them all around the world. But then they grow older – not just in years, but in tears. Someone dies. Someone hurts them. They hurt someone else. Pain happens. They come to realize that dreams are just that – dreams. They begin to realize that what they need is money in their pockets, not dreams.
Then, people really begin to live life: they fall in love, get married, earn a living, live in suburbia, buy an S.U.V., have spoiled kids, watch movies where fictional characters accomplish their dreams (almost magically) and live happily ever after.
Sometimes, dreams are just too much trouble. People don’t want pain, don’t want to bleed, don’t want to be laughed at and mocked.
The Pretender gets me asking such questions about life. Jackson Browne puts the feelings and thoughts all of us have into words, and is a masterful poet for that reason.
Partly through The Pretender, I now know that whatever I think I might have in my life, it’s all worth losing for the sake of living a life that’s worth living.
My favorites are “The Fuse,” “Your Bright Baby Blues,” “Sleep’s Dark and Silent Gate,” and of course, “The Pretender.”