This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
That’s me - and here is a prime example of a pretender (from a long, long time ago).
Actually I’ve never claimed to be a musicologist, it’s just that we thought that Norma should have a title and after many options, we settled on the joke title of Norma, the Assistant Musicologist.
That would suggest my title, but you’d be wrong if you thought that. I’m just a music buff with lots of music at my command, and a really good memory (and the help of Dr Google).
So, here are some pretend songs. Okay, they’re real songs, they’re just songs about pretending.
I’ll start with the song that inspired this column. Those with similar taste in music will know I’m talking about JACKSON BROWNE. The A.M. and I were watching a vid of Jackson in concert, and naturally this song was included. Light bulb moment. I know several pretend songs, I said, I’m sure there are enough for a column.
I was rather ambivalent about Jackson’s album (“The Pretender”) when it first came out, but over the years I’ve come to appreciate immensely, especially the title track, The Pretender.
There are several great pretend songs in the column and a few more of a different quality (I have to make up the numbers somehow). This is one of the former; how could it not be when it’s performed by NAT KING COLE.
Nat is always welcome in my columns. Unfortunately, the song is from after his great early recordings as a trio. Here the record company throw all the bells and whistles in to back him up, although not as grievously as on some of his songs.
Nat sings Pretend, one of his hits.
In spite of what I said about memory above, I had the thought that there were many versions of the next song. There may be, but I only have two in my collection – Bobby Vee and JERRY VALE.
The song, Pretend You Don’t See Her, was written by Steve Allen and was a big hit for Jerry back around 1957. Bobby’s version was some years later, of course.
There was no pretence about BILLIE HOLIDAY, she was the real deal.
Because of racism and sexism, singers like Billie used to get the dregs of the songs that established singers (usually male and/or white) didn’t want to record.
It reminds me of food – way back the peasants and other poor people had to make do with meat and vegetables that the rich folk wouldn’t touch. They made do and created a cuisine that now costs top dollar in trendy restaurants.
The same with Billie. She created gourmet fare from the least of songs. I don’t know if this is one of those, but it fits in today. I Can't Pretend.
Here is the greatest pretend song of them all – this is the real thing, if that’s not an oxymoron given the topic. It’s by one of the finest vocal groups ever, THE PLATTERS.
People around my age will remember one of their greatest hits, if not the pick of the lot, The Great Pretender. They were blessed with one of the finest lead singers in popular music, Tony Williams.
KITTY WELLS was a trail blazer in her time.
She was the first woman to top the country music charts (although Patsy Montana would have done so had the charts been around in her time).
She was the first country female performer to release an album (it was thought that females didn’t sell records) and the first country female to receive a Grammy lifetime achievement award. She had many other firsts as well.
She’s also name-checked in one of Willie Nelson’s best songs. Kitty is here today for her song, I'm Tired of Pretending.
I didn’t know if I should include KATIE THIROUX but the A.M. said that it would make a nice change of pace.
The change being that this is an instrumental, so there’s no pretence mentioned, except for the title: Can't We Just Pretend, a tune Katie wrote herself. Katie is a bass player and singer, although as mentioned, that’s not evident on this tune.
I’m so used to hearing the music of LES PAUL AND MARY FORD that this song came as a bit of a shock to me.
The shock is that Mary usually sings (often with herself, maybe even several versions of herself) and Les (and Mary now and then) plays guitar. On this song Les sings (sounding rather like a cross between Bing Crosby and Leon Redbone).
Naturally there’s some beautiful guitar work. The song is Pretending.
THE DELLS would be high on the list of the longest lived groups in popular music with most of the same musicians.
They formed in 1952 and only called it a day in 2012 due to illness of their lead and bass singers. At the time they still had four of the original group.
They started off as doowop performers, but expanded their repertoire, of course. I imagine that The Temptations listened closely to them. From 1973 here is My Pretending Days Are Over.
I only discovered FIRST AID KIT a couple of years ago, but I’ve come to appreciate their music since then.
The Firsties (the Aidies? the Kitties? – you know that Australians like to abbreviate everything, unless it’s already short, in which case we’ll elongate it) are Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg along with three others on various instruments.
They perform Master Pretender, with Klara singing lead and some nice harmonies from both of them.
I’ll end with the King; here is ELVIS from the seventies, not his best period.
He’d lost his swagger and rock and roll panache, but boy he could still sing, as is evident in Just Pretend. Actually, this is the style of song he claimed he always wanted to perform.