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Bruce Springsteen Song Characters Ranked by How Healthy Their Relationship is With The Boss

10. Maria (“Maria’s Bed” from Devils & Dust)

Just a lonely man and a sex worker. Nothing inherently unhealthy here except that Bruce seems a little too obsessed. But hey, get your “candy stick kisses ‘neath a wolf-dog moon” where you can get them

9. Sandy (“4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” from The Wild, The Innocent, the E Street Shuffle)

As far as pickup lines go, this goes hard if not a little despy. Bruce shows his hand, though, with the line “That waitress I was seeing lost her desire for me.” He’s looking for a rebound. Honestly nothing wrong with that, it’s part of the heartbreak process for some. The “I promise I’l love you forever” might be a little dishonest, or at least skewed by emotion, but isn’t that what young, New Jersey boardwalk love is?

8. Wendy (“Born to Run” from Born to Run)

Passion! Intrigue! Excitement! Tramps! Bruce contextualizes his relationship with Wendy within the backdrop of their surroundings (the highway, the amusement park, the death trap that is their town, etc). Very romantic, but what happens when the environment changes? If the identity of the relationship is externalized, then Bruce and Wendy don’t have much control. They want to escape so bad that once they get to that place “they really want to go” and are left with just themselves, are they going to like what they find (see: the entirety of the Darkness album)? They might. They seem really into each other. But “I wanna die with you, Wendy, on the street tonight in an everlasting kiss” suggest a freewheeling shortsightedness indicative of young love destined to burn out. All the best guys, we’re rooting for you.

7. Frank (“The New Timer” from The Ghost of Tom Joad)

To my knowledge, “hobo” is still an accepted term. Please cancel me if not. That being said, hobo bonds are the best bonds. Frank isn’t in Bruce’s life for very long, and he comes to an unfortunate end that highlights the dehumanization of the lower class, but he has an impact. He’s a mentor, a friend, and a symbol of human decency. When he’s gone, Bruce spirals.

6. Rosie (“Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” from The Wild, The Innocent, the E Street Shuffle)

The bottom line of this love song: let’s go hang out with the gang. Precious. No sense in being one of those couples that hide away and no one ever sees (looking at you Big Bones Billy and Sloppy Sue). The absence of schlocky “I’d die for you” or “my love for you is an endless sea” clichés make it extra authentic. Just straight-up confidence, bravado, and excitement. Once you iron out the relationship with her parents, you might have something here, Bruce.

5. Bobby Jean (“Bobby Jean” from Born in the USA)

Famously gender- and relationship-status-ambiguous because true love transcends conditions…even if the song is clearly about Little Steven. While Bobby Jean’s bolt-in-the-night strategy suggests either a breakdown in communication or more likely a fear of confrontation, you can’t deny the strength of the relationship. “We went walking in the rain talking about the pain that from the world we hid.” Find you a person like that…and get them to teach you proper grammar.

4. Terry (“Backstreets” from Born to Run)

“One soft infested summer me and Terry became friends trying in vain the breathe the fire we was born in.” Chef fucking kiss. One of the best opening lines to any song ever and it sets the tone for this relationship. Another genderless situationship that may or may not be romantic (listener’s discretion). Hard lessons learned, strong emotions of love and heartbreak. Bruce takes accountability for his shortcomings, properly acknowledges his emotions, and is fully processing his time with Terry which didn’t seem to end well. Forever is a long time, and sometimes promises don’t keep. Even healthy relationships can run their natural course.

3. Theresa (“I’ll Work For Your Love” from Magic)

The overly religious language may be a bit worrisome and bordering on pedestaling, but the sentiment seems grounded enough. Healthy relationships take work, even if that work presents as opaque, possibly sexual, biblical imagery (“the dust of civilizations and love’s sweet remains slip off of your fingers and come drifting down like rain?”). All aboard the church of love.

2. Billy (“The Last Carnival” from Working on a Dream)

Handsome Billy? More like “clearly Dan Federici” am I right? One of the strongest relationships in Bruce’s real life and one of the strongest relationships in his songs. Most importantly, Bruce isn’t spiraling after his death. The healthiest relationships continue to thrive through separation. “Two daredevils high up on the wall of death, he throws the knife, it lands inches from my head.” Such trust. Perfection.

1. Janey (“Janey Don’t You Lose Heart” from Tracks)

Incredibly wholesome, incredibly healthy. Janey’s depressed (who isn’t in the Springsteenverse?) and Bruce accepts her where she’s at, gives gentle support, and shares the burden. Most importantly: no blame, no unsolicited advice, no invalidation, and no savior complex. That’s true love.

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