INTERESTING STUFF – 5 October 2019
How Old Should a U.S. President Be?

ELDER MUSIC: The Pretender

Tibbles1SM100x130This 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.

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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.

Jackson Browne

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.

♫ Jackson Browne - 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 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.

♫ Nat King Cole - Pretend

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.

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.

♫ Jerry Vale - Pretend You Don't See Her

There was no pretence about BILLIE HOLIDAY, she was the real deal.

Billie Holiday

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.

♫ Billie Holiday - 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.

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.

♫ The Platters - The Great Pretender

KITTY WELLS was a trail blazer in her time.

Kitty Wells

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.

♫ Kitty Wells - 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.

Katie Thiroux

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.

♫ Katie Thiroux - Can't We Just Pretend

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.

Les Paul and Mary Ford

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.

♫ Les Paul & Mary Ford - Pretending

THE DELLS would be high on the list of the longest lived groups in popular music with most of the same musicians.

The Dells

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.

♫ The Dells - 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.

First Aid Kit

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.

♫ First Aid Kit - Master Pretender

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.

♫ Elvis - Just Pretend


You had me at Jackson Browne (happy sigh)...

Ah youth — back in the day — strummin’ away as I view your handsome photo!
What qualifies any of us writing here to think of ourselves as musicologists? We just like what we like. Patsy Montana, reminded me my Sr. High School year — all were a tither as word spread her daughter had started classes at our school.

Can be fun to group music as you’ve done here with “pretend”. I recall when some of the girls in my college dorm were going ga-ga over The Platters “The Great Pretender”, including a girl friend of mine. Interestingly it seem to coincide with her disappointment in and breaking up with a boyfriend. So the lyrics held meaning for her.

Was the South and Elvis was making the then referred to “negro” music, rhythm and blues edging into rock, acceptable for those whites. I prefer jazz but I introduced my friend to a buddy of mine (they later wed) who was a Country Music fan. [Years later he (Jimmie Rogers — not the Country musician with same name spelled differently) wrote a book about the music which with 2 semi-truck-size collected materials was transported east to be included for a North Carolina Univ. museum]. Four years ago I visited them for a most enjoyable several day visit for the first time in fifty years. Imagine — we all looked a bit different from our college days!

I’m always fascinated by why various music numbers, arrangements, instrumentations and performers appeal to different people. Am inclined to think superlative terms I.e. “best”, “greatest” are relative and can be highly selective for each person. What sells the most, makes the most money, has the most popular following, gets the most plays with subjectively selected music programs are some of the criteria we use to make those judgements, but may not necessarily reflect the terms used to describe them by others. Our different musical tastes keep life interesting for all of us. :-).

Bits and pieces of genres mix with some surviving in more pure form for other people. I think some bemoaned the popular incorporation of “Pop-like Music” into Country which is reining today, yet the recent Ken Burns’ PBS special suggests that was what aided Country Music to survive. Rock fans hasten to preserve their preference. Will we end up with an amalgamation of it all and away from the predominant guitar of today? Will be interesting to see how music evolves and into what forms in the future.

Fun post.

But ....

That's not Les Paul pretending to be Bing Crosby. That is Bing Crosby.

I think you’re right, Charles

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