This song is about a man who gives up his dreams and lives a life of routine monotony in order to accumulate money. He is the pretender.
Browne's first wife, Phyllis, committed suicide in the spring of 1976, but in the wake of the tragedy he recorded his commercial breakthrough album, The Pretender. The record climbed into the Top 10 upon its fall 1976 release, going platinum in the spring of 1977.
This appears on the…
I'm going to rent myself a house
In the shade of the freeway
Going to pack my lunch in the morning
And go to work each day