The Great Pretender

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"The Great Pretender"
Single by The Platters
from the album Encore of Golden Hits
B-side"I'm Just a Dancing Partner"
ReleasedNovember 3, 1955
GenreRhythm and blues, doo-wop
Songwriter(s)Buck Ram
Producer(s)Buck Ram
The Platters singles chronology
"Only You (And You Alone)"
"The Great Pretender"
"I Need You All the Time"

"The Great Pretender" is a popular song recorded by The Platters, with Tony Williams on lead vocals, and released as a single in November 1955. The words and music were written by Buck Ram,[1] the Platters' manager and producer who was a successful songwriter before moving into producing and management. The song reached No. 1 on Billboard's Top 100, and No. 5 on the UK charts.

The song has been covered by a number of singers, most notably by Freddie Mercury, whose version reached No. 4 on the UK charts. Sam Cooke's cover of the song is believed to have inspired Chrissie Hynde to name her band The Pretenders.[2]

Platters' original[edit]

Buck Ram, the manager of The Platters said that he wrote the song in about 20 minutes in the washroom of the Flamingo Hotel in order to have a follow-up to the success of "Only You (And You Alone)". Ram had boasted to Bob Shad that he had an even better song than "Only You", and when pressed by Shad on the name of the song, Ram quickly replied "The Great Pretender".[3] He said the song would be a hit even before he had written the song to go with the title.[4] The song was recorded by The Platters and released in November 1955.[3] Plas Johnson played tenor saxophone on the recording. It became the best-selling R&B song in January 1956,[5] and reached No. 2 on the Top 100 chart on Billboard in February 1956.[6] It was also the 12th best-selling singles of 1956.[7]

The Platters performed "The Great Pretender" and "Only You" in the 1956 musical film Rock Around the Clock.[8], and was also in the film American Graffiti.

In 2002, "The Great Pretender" by The Platters on Mercury Records was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. The HOF lists the date as 1956.[9]

In 2004, the song was ranked 360th in The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time by Rolling Stone.[10]


Weekly chart performance for "The Great Pretender"
Chart (1956–57) Peak
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[11] 5
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[12] 3
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[13] 1
UK Singles (OCC)[14] 5
US R&B Records (Billboard)[5] 1
US Billboard Top 100[6] 2

Freddie Mercury's version[edit]

"The Great Pretender"
Single by Freddie Mercury
B-side"Exercises in Free Love" (3:58)
  • February 23, 1987[15]
  • January 25, 1993 (reissue)
RecordedJanuary 1987
Length3:25 (7" version)
  • 5:55 (12" extended version)
Songwriter(s)Buck Ram
Freddie Mercury singles chronology
"The Great Pretender"
1992 reissue
Cover of 1992 U.S. album release
Music video
"The Great Pretender" on YouTube

The song was repopularized in 1987 by Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of the rock band Queen. Mercury's version reached No. 4 in the UK Singles Chart. In one of his last videotaped interviews in spring of 1987, Mercury explained that the song was particularly fitting for the way he saw his career and being on stage.[16]

Mercury's original music video for the song featured him parodying himself in many of his Queen guises through video medium over the years, including visual re-takes of "Radio Ga Ga", "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", "It's a Hard Life", "I Want to Break Free", "Bohemian Rhapsody", "I Was Born to Love You", and "Made in Heaven". It was directed by David Mallet in February 1987, and also featured fellow Queen member Roger Taylor and actor Peter Straker in drag. The video was also notable for Mercury having shaved off his trademark moustache, which he had sported for much of the 1980s. In 1992, Brian Malouf remixed the song for the film Night and The City and a new edit of the video was produced using clips from the film.

Wit Studio's original anime television series "Great Pretender" uses this version as its ending theme.



Jimmy Parkinson's versions[edit]

The song was covered in the UK by Australian vocalist Jimmy Parkinson. It entered the Top 20 on March 3, 1956, six months before the Platters' version; Parkinson's version peaked at No. 9 and remained in the Top 20 for ten weeks.[34]

Other covers[edit]


  1. ^ a b Buck Ram interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969)
  2. ^ Sobsey, Adam (2017). Chrissie Hynde: A Musical Biography. University of Texas Press. p. 10. ISBN 9781477310397.
  3. ^ a b Warner, Jay (2000). The Da Capo Book Of American Singing Groups. Da Capo Press. p. 256. ISBN 9780306809231.
  4. ^ Lazell, Barry (1989). Rock Movers & Shakers. Billboard Publications. p. 377. ISBN 9780823076086.
  5. ^ a b "The Billboard Music Popularity Charts: Rhythm & Blues Records". Billboard. January 7, 1956. p. 55.
  6. ^ a b "The Top 100". Billboard. February 16, 1956. p. 51.
  7. ^ "1956's Top Popular Records" (PDF). The Billboard. Vol. 69, no. 4. January 26, 1957. p. 60.
  8. ^ Studwell, William E; Lonergan, David (22 May 2014). The Classic Rock and Roll Reader: Rock Music from Its Beginnings to the Mid 1970s. Routledge. p. 139. ISBN 9781317720683.
  9. ^
  10. ^ "361: The Great Pretender". Rolling Stone. 11 December 2003.
  11. ^ "The Platters – The Great Pretender" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  12. ^ "The Platters – The Great Pretender" (in French). Ultratop 50.
  13. ^ "The Platters – The Great Pretender" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  14. ^ "The Platters: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company.
  15. ^ Smith, Robin (21 February 1987). "Index". Record Mirror. p. 3. ISSN 0144-5804.
  16. ^ Interview of Freddie Mercury by Rudi Dolezal. 1987.
  17. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 198. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  18. ^ "Freddie Mercury – The Great Pretender" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 21 August 2020.
  19. ^ "Freddie Mercury – The Great Pretender" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 21 August 2020.
  20. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2021). "Freddie Mercury". Sisältää hitin - 2. laitos Levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla 1.1.1960–30.6.2021 (PDF) (in Finnish). Helsinki: Kustannusosakeyhtiö Otava. p. 168. Retrieved 3 July 2022.
  21. ^ "Freddie Mercury – The Great Pretender" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 21 August 2020.
  22. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Freddie Mercury". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  23. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Freddie Mercury" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  24. ^ "Freddie Mercury – The Great Pretender" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 21 August 2020.
  25. ^ "Freddie Mercury – The Great Pretender". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 21 August 2020.
  26. ^ "Top 3 Singles in Europe" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 4, no. 22. 6 June 1987. p. 12. OCLC 29800226. Retrieved 3 October 2023 – via World Radio History.
  27. ^ "Freddie Mercury – The Great Pretender". Singles Top 100. Retrieved 21 August 2020.
  28. ^ "Freddie Mercury – The Great Pretender". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 21 August 2020.
  29. ^ "Freddie Mercury: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 21 August 2020.
  30. ^ " – Freddie Mercury – The Great Pretender" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved 21 August 2020.
  31. ^ "Jaaroverzichten 1987" (in Dutch). Ultratop. Hung Medien. Retrieved 6 April 2022.
  32. ^ "European Charts of the Year 1987: Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. 26 December 1987. p. 34. Retrieved 7 April 2022.
  33. ^ "Gallup Year End Charts 1987: Singles". Record Mirror. London. 23 January 1988. p. 36. ISSN 0144-5804.
  34. ^ "Cover versions of The Great Pretender by Jimmy Parkinson - SecondHandSongs".
  35. ^ a b Bick, Emily (August 19, 2019). "The Great Pretender — the hit that went from kitsch to heartbreak". Financial Times.
  36. ^ Larkin, Colin (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Seventies Music. Virgin. p. 31. ISBN 9780753501542.
  37. ^ "30 ANOS DE ROCK - Discos do Brasil".

External links[edit]