The Great Pretender
|"The Great Pretender"|
|Single by The Platters|
|B-side||"I'm Just a Dancing Partner"|
|Released||November 3, 1955|
|Genre||Rhythm and blues, doo-wop|
"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, 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.
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, and Ram quickly replied "The Great Pretender". He said the song would be a hit even before he had written the song to go with the title. The song was recorded by The Platters and released in November 1955. Plas Johnson played tenor saxophone on the recording. It became the best-selling R&B song in January 1956, and reached No. 1 on the Top 100 chart on Billboard in February 1956. It was also the 12th best-selling singles of 1956.
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)||5|
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)||3|
|Netherlands (Single Top 100)||1|
|UK Singles (OCC)||5|
|US R&B Records (Billboard)||1|
|US Billboard Top 100||1|
Freddie Mercury's version
|"The Great Pretender"|
|Single by Freddie Mercury|
|B-side||"Exercises in Free Love" (3:58)|
|Length||3:25 (7" version)
|Freddie Mercury singles chronology|
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.
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", and "I Was Born to Love You". 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.
- Freddie Mercury: lead vocals and backing vocals
- Mike Moran: synthesizers
- Alan Jones: bass
- Harold Fisher: drums
|Australia (Kent Music Report)||54|
|Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)||26|
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)||6|
|Germany (Official German Charts)||26|
|Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)||9|
|Netherlands (Single Top 100)||11|
|New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)||5|
|Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)||15|
|UK Singles (OCC)||4|
Jimmy Parkinson's versions
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.
- Stan Freberg recorded a parody of the Platters' song.
- Roy Orbison recorded the song for his 1962 album Crying.
- The Band recorded a version of "The Great Pretender" in their 1972 album Moondog Matinee, which is an album of covers.
- Dolly Parton included a version on her 1984 album of the same name.
- Raul Seixas recorded a version in 1973 for his album Os_24_Maiores_Sucessos_da_Era_do_Rock. 
- Buck Ram interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969)
- Sobsey, Adam (2017). Chrissie Hynde: A Musical Biography. University of Texas Press. p. 10. ISBN 9781477310397.
- Warner, Jay (2000). The Da Capo Book Of American Singing Groups. Da Capo Press. p. 256. ISBN 9780306809231.
- Lazell, Barry (1989). Rock Movers & Shakers. Billboard Publications. p. 377. ISBN 9780823076086.
- "The Billboard Music Popularity Charts: Rhythm & Blues Records". Billboard. January 7, 1956. p. 55.
- "The Top 100". Billboard. February 16, 1956. p. 51.
- "1956's Top Popular Records" (PDF). The Billboard. Vol. 69 no. 4. January 26, 1957. p. 60.
- 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.
- "361: The Great Pretender". Rolling Stone.
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- "The Platters: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company.
- Interview of Freddie Mercury by Rudi Dolezal. 1987.
- 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.
- "Freddie Mercury – The Great Pretender" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 21 August 2020.
- "Freddie Mercury – The Great Pretender" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 21 August 2020.
- "Freddie Mercury – The Great Pretender" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 21 August 2020.
- "Freddie Mercury – The Great Pretender" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved 21 August 2020.
- "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Freddie Mercury". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
- "Nederlandse Top 40 – Freddie Mercury" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
- "Freddie Mercury – The Great Pretender" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 21 August 2020.
- "Freddie Mercury – The Great Pretender". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 21 August 2020.
- "Freddie Mercury – The Great Pretender". Singles Top 100. Retrieved 21 August 2020.
- "Freddie Mercury – The Great Pretender". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 21 August 2020.
- "Freddie Mercury: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 21 August 2020.
- "Cover versions of The Great Pretender by Jimmy Parkinson - SecondHandSongs". secondhandsongs.com.
- Bick, Emily (August 19, 2019). "The Great Pretender — the hit that went from kitsch to heartbreak". Financial Times.
- Larkin, Colin (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Seventies Music. Virgin. p. 31. ISBN 9780753501542.