About The Song

Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe” stands as a unique landmark in his career. Though better known for his country music achievements, this 1958 song became a massive pop hit, topping both the US and UK charts. This deep dive explores the song’s background, musical style, lyrical content, cultural impact, and lasting legacy.

Background

  • From Rockabilly to Pop Stardom: In the late 1950s, Conway Twitty (born Harold Jenkins) was a young singer trying to break into the music industry. He initially pursued a rockabilly sound, releasing singles under the name “Rockin’ Conway.” However, these early efforts found limited success.
  • Teaming Up with Jack Nance: Looking for a new direction, Twitty partnered with songwriter Jack Nance. Together, they crafted “It’s Only Make Believe,” a melodic ballad that departed from Twitty’s rockabilly roots.
  • Doll Records Takes a Chance: The newly formed Doll Records, impressed by the song’s potential, signed Twitty and released “It’s Only Make Believe” in July 1958.

Musical Style

  • A Bridge Between Genres: The song occupies a sonic space between rock and roll and the burgeoning pop scene of the late 1950s. The driving beat and prominent electric guitar lean towards rockabilly, while the smooth vocals and catchy melody have a pop sensibility.
  • The Power of the Ballad: “It’s Only Make Believe” showcased Twitty’s strong baritone vocals, delivered with a vulnerability that resonated with listeners. The use of strings and backing vocals added a layer of sophistication to the arrangement.
  • Teenage Heartthrob Appeal: Twitty’s youthful good looks and charismatic stage presence added to the song’s appeal. He became a popular figure on music shows like “American Bandstand,” further propelling the song’s success.
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Lyrics

  • The Pain of Young Love: The song’s lyrics explore the heartbreak of a young man whose love interest doesn’t reciprocate his feelings. Lines like “I pretend you love me too / But it’s only make believe” capture the protagonist’s emotional turmoil.
  • Hope and Acceptance: Despite the sadness, the song maintains a glimmer of hope. The singer acknowledges the fantasy aspect of his feelings but expresses a willingness to move on: “Someday I’ll forget you / But until that day / It’s only make believe.”
  • Simple Yet Powerful Language: The lyrics use simple, direct language that resonates with listeners of all ages. The song’s emotional core and relatable themes remain timeless.

Cultural Impact

  • A Pop Culture Phenomenon: “It’s Only Make Believe” became a runaway hit in 1958. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for seven weeks, selling over two million copies. The song also landed in the Top 10 in the UK, establishing Twitty as an international star.
  • Crossing Genre Lines: The song’s success blurred the lines between rock and roll and pop music. It demonstrated the growing influence of teenage audiences on popular music trends.
  • A Launchpad for Conway Twitty: While “It’s Only Make Believe” would be Twitty’s only number one pop hit, it opened doors for his career. He continued to release pop-oriented material throughout the early 1960s before ultimately finding his greatest success in country music.
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Conclusion

“It’s Only Make Believe” stands as a fascinating anomaly in Conway Twitty’s career. The song’s pop success showcased his vocal talent and songwriting ability while breaking him into the mainstream consciousness. Though he would become a country legend, this early hit left its mark on popular music history. The song’s themes of young love, heartbreak, and resilience continue to resonate with listeners across generations.

Additional Points to Consider

  • The Legacy of Doll Records: Despite launching “It’s Only Make Believe,” Doll Records struggled financially and folded within a few years.
  • Conway Twitty’s Country Reinvention: In the mid-1960s, Twitty embraced country music, finding massive success with hits like “It’s It’s Gonna Be Me” and forming a legendary duet partnership with Loretta Lynn.
  • “It’s Only Make Believe” in Popular Culture: The song has been featured in numerous films and television shows, highlighting its enduring popularity.

Video

Lyrics

🎵 Let’s sing along with the lyrics! 🎤
People see us everywhereThey think you really careBut myself, I can’t deceiveI know it’s only make believe
My one and only prayerIs that some day you’ll careMy hopes, my dreams come trueMy one and only you
No one will ever knowHow much I love you soMy only prayer will beSome day you’ll care for meBut it’s only make believe
My hopes, my dreams come trueMy life, I’d give for youMy heart, a wedding ringMy all, my everything
My heart I can’t controlYou rule my very soulMy only prayer will beSome day you’ll care for meBut it’s only make believe
My one and only prayerIs that some day you’ll careMy hopes, my dreams come trueMy one and only you
No one will ever knowHow much I love you soMy prayer, my hopes, my schemesYou are my every thingBut it’s only make believe (make believe)

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