Song Lyric Sunday – “The Great Pretender” by The Platters

This week Jim Adams has prompted us with choosing songs involving Best | Better | Good | Great for this week’s Song Lyric Sunday.

Today I’m taking you back to 1955 with “The Great Pretender” by The Platters. The song describes a man who is dealing with a heartbreak but is in denial about it.

Formed in Los Angeles in 1952, the original founding members of The Platters were Herb Reed, Alex Hodge, Cornell Gunder and Joe Jefferson managed by Ralph Bass of Federal Records. After recording two singles with little success, Bass asked his long time friend Buck Ram to coach the group. Ram made some major changes by adding a female vocalist Zola Taylor to the group in the fall of 1954 and replaced Alex Hodge with Paul Robi. In June, 1953, Gunter left to join the Flaires and was replaced by lead vocalist Tony Williams.

With Tony Williams on lead vocals, “The Great Pretender”, written by Buck Ram in about 20 minutes in the washroom of the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada became the groups first national #1 hit. He was needing a follow up song to “Only You”. Ram was the manager and producer of The Platters and had been a successful songwriter before making the move into management and production.

Freddie Mercury covered the song in 1987 in his larger than life production. In the official video, Freddie brings the “oldie but goodie” back to life with his well known flare. From Wiki “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”. The video featured him parodying himself in many of his Queen outfits from past years. Queen band member Roger Taylor and singer/actor Peter Straker are shown with Freddie in “Tina Turner” like drag singing the backup “Woo Woo”.

Scene from “American Graffiti”


  • The Platters released the single on November 3, 1955.
  • First ever doo wop song to reach #1 in the US. First national #1 hit for The Platters.
  • Reached #4 on the UK charts with Freddie Mercury’s revival of the song.
  • Chrissie Hynde was inspired to name her rock back “The Pretenders” after the Sam Cooke version of this song.
  • The song is on the soundtrack for “Rock Around the Clock“, a 1956 film musical about the fall of big bands and the rise of rock and roll.
  • Featured in the movie “American Graffiti” co-written by George Lucas starring Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Harrison Ford, Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams, Candy Clark, Mackenzie Phillips, Bo Hopkins and Wolfman Jack (see video above) .

“The Great Pretender”

Oh-oh, yes I'm the great pretender
Pretending that I'm doing well
My need is such I pretend too much
I'm lonely but no one can tell
Oh-oh, yes I'm the great pretender
Adrift in a world of my own
I've played the game but to my real shame
You've left me to grieve all alone
Too real is this feeling of make-believe
Too real when I feel what my heart can't conceal
Yes I'm the great pretender
Just laughin' and gay like a clown
I seem to be what I'm not, you see
I'm wearing my heart like a crown
Pretending that you're still around
Too real is this feeling of make-believe
Too real when I feel what my heart can't conceal
Yes I'm the great pretender
Just laughin' and gay like the clown
I seem to be what I'm not, you see
I'm wearing my heart like a crown
Pretending that you're still around
Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Buck Ram
The great pretender lyrics Β© Peermusic Publishing

36 Comments on “Song Lyric Sunday – “The Great Pretender” by The Platters

  1. Great choice. I actually love both versions. Freddie was a powerhouse for sure. The Platters and I go way back in memory! Tony Williams has a richness in his voice that is hard to beat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Me too! My mom had all the oldies albums, and yes in the 70’s they were considered the oldies. Those doo wop songs, Elvis and country music was all I listened to until about 1971ish. I was 7 years old and remember hearing The Who for the first time in the clubhouse diner playing pinball and Pinball Wizard came on. I was hooked to a new genre of music! πŸ™‚ I’d say I have a large range of likes. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    • There were so many covers. Roy Clark covered it too in his early days. I wanted to add it but the video wouldn’t work so I dropped it. It’s a classic for sure! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

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