“Now everyone dreams of a love faithful and true,
But you and I know what this world can do.
So let’s make our steps clear so the other may see.
And I’ll wait for you…should I fall behind, wait for me.”
There’s something decidedly macho about the outward appearance of Bruce Springsteen’s career. Whether it was his semi-permanent insistence on wearing denim, his charismatic defence of the working class and all the grime under your fingernails glory that came with it, or something entirely unquantifiable — The Boss always appeared as a man’s man. But to ignore Springsteen’s softer side is only to get one half of the story.
Bruce Springsteen is an old romantic in every sense of the word. His dynamic behaviour has always closely emulated that of a Hollywood heartthrob, preferring to chase heroics rather than skirts. Springsteen has always pursued the greater good over cheap thrills in the recording studio and on stage. Equally, the songs he has written over the years have been so widely varied that when he does utter the more romantic moments of his canon, they land with a sincerity that only Clark Gable or Humphrey Bogart can muster. Below, we’ve picked out our ten favourite Bruce Springsteen love songs.
The Boss approaches the subject of love with a unique standpoint. While some contemporaries of his would allow their inner-florist to conjure up perfumed imagery and flowery lyrics, Springsteen prefers a more battle-hardened approach, moving toward love songs with his sword drawn and his teeth clenched. It’s part of what makes his songs so beautiful relatable, and wholly attainable.
Sorry to break this to you; love really isn’t a bed of roses, and Springsteen knows it. In fact, he’s been telling us for decades. The Boss has always littered his output with love songs across his canon but not the kind of dross you may find elsewhere. Springsteen’s love songs are rooted in real-life drama — trauma, even — and can always be seen as some of the most accurate depictions of the everlasting emotion.
Below, we’ve gathered up all of Springsteen’s greatest song sin the name of love and it makes for one of the most honest reflections of the emotion we’ve ever witnessed.
Bruce Springsteen’s best love songs:
10. ‘Then She Kissed Me’
Considering all we just said about Springsteen’s penchant for romantic realism, we should probably get this one out the way. The Crystals sang the original track ‘Then He Kissed Me’ with such saccharine tones that we’re pretty sure most of the audience ended the song with diabetes. The Boss took on the track, switched the pronouns and the point of view, and somehow brought the track down to earth.
It’s been a mainstay of his live performances for decades, and below you can witness a classic performance of the track from 1975. While the original was so sweet it would hurt your teeth, The Boss’ version has far more danger attached. It feels like a cloud is beginning to form and that the kiss he had waited so long for may have come from poison lips.
The song was never intended for Bruce Springsteen. One o the tracks The Boss had written for somebody else, ‘Fire’ was originally intended for The King himself, Elvis Presley. Eventually picked up by the Pointer Sisters in 1978, ‘Fire’ is now a key part of Springsteen’s live sets.
While the Pointer Sisters relied on their magnetic vocal performances to seal their own connection to the song, Springsteen’s version is simply dripping with machismo. Charged with testosterone and brimming with The Boss’ passion, the song feels as close to its title as possible when under his guidance.
8. ‘Girls in Their Summer Clothes’
A gentle, summer-drenched number sees us return to the halcyon days of yore and the summer evenings of chasing girls and playing ball. It’s a welcomed piece of nostalgia and one that certainly has its place among Springsteen’s more visceral works. ‘Girls in their Summer Clothes’ was perfectly set up to grab a Grammy, and it launched at the award with both hands open.
“Love’s a fool’s dance / I ain’t got much sense but I still got my feet,” sings Springsteen as his main protagonist Bill. Through Bill, we not only get a view of the past but also a hopeful vision of the future too.
7. ‘Because the Night’
Sharing songwriting credits with Patti Smith, the bare bones Bruce Springsteen gave the punk godmother were more than enough to sustain her. After a few flicks of her well-educated wrist, Smith had created the vibrant and voracious song we all know and love today. ‘Because The Night’ is one of Springsteen’s more explicit songs about love, but that doesn’t mean it can escape ambiguity.
Though it may well act as a love letter to the emotion, as well as a hefty dose of lust, the song is embittered with a sense of anguish that cannot be shaken off. Of course, none of that really matters when the pressurised and passionate crescendo reaches climax.
Taken from Springsteen’s folk album Devils & Dust ‘Reno’ could have easily become a hacky mess — such is the pitfall that awaits most rock-pop heroes who turn their hand to the delicate genre. However, Springsteen pulls it all off with a genuine devotion that can spark a fire inside the listener.
The song is certainly one of the more ‘adult’ tracks on our list with the lyrics being rather explicit. Telling the story of love with a sex worker, lyrics detail the experience without reproach: “She slipped me out of her mouth/ ‘You’re ready,’ she said/ She took off her bra and panties/ Wet her fingers, slipped it inside her/ And crawled over me on the bed.”
As we said, definitely an ‘adult’ song.
5. ‘Brilliant Disguise’
After Born in the U.S.A. confirmed Springsteen as the biggest musical act in the world, Springsteen did what any credible artist would do in that situation and tried to get as far away from the chart-topping album as he possibly could. The follow-up album, Tunnel of Love, was about as far as Springsteen could jump in one leap.
While Springsteen had spent much of his previous albums sharing the stories of those he had crossed paths with, both imaginary and in real life, on this record, he offered more of himself than ever before.
The best moment on the understated album is a sheer love song that needs no extra dissection — ‘Brilliant Disguises’ sounds like Springsteen channelling Roy Orbison and expressing himself more personally than ever before.
4. ‘The River’
An album split in two will always have a habit of dividing fans and, on The River, Springsteen has certainly done that. Half of the LP songs are full of rock tracks, ready to get the dancefloor is dripping in sweat, while the second half is chock-full of simply breathtaking ballads. For our money, this gives you the best of both worlds and entirely encapsulates Springsteen’s view on love.
The defining song on the album is, of course, the title track. ‘The River’ was also one of three on the record, including ‘Stolen Car’ and ‘Wreck on the Highway’, which hinted at the direction Springsteen was taking his songwriting. As The Boss played with America’s heartland rock and its romantic heart, he used songs like ‘The River’ to effortlessly flex his pop muscles without succumbing fully.
It’s a classic piece of songwriting that shows his true colours as the everyman.
3. ‘Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)’
Once labelling ‘Rosalita’ one of his favourite love songs, Springsteen clearly holds this track in high esteem. It’s an effervescent number, too, positively bristling with intent and demanding attention the only way Springsteen knew how. This song is all about young love and the excitement it brings, making this easily our favourite moment on the album.
It’s a track that sets the scene for the escapism of the forthcoming album Born To Run, as the world dreamed of setting sail across the oceans and heading on the road to nowhere with the one you loved.
Its innocence is neatly juxtaposed by the excitement of proceedings. It’s a pure joy.
2. ‘If I Should Fall Behind’
‘If I Should Fall Behind’ is one of the most sincere moments Springsteen has ever delivered. A promise of fidelity delivered with the utmost respect, skill and expressive honesty that the song can simply defy belief.
It’s not only the kind of love song that can make you weak at the knees but also nod your head in agreement, proving that fantastical song of romance can be rooted din the life we are all living.
Unlike some of his earlier work, ‘If I Should Fall Behind’ approached the classic love song with a far more mature head. This is not a song dripping in head-spinning passion but one that is methodical — planned and perfected. “I’ll wait for you / Should I fall behind, wait for me,” sings Springsteen knowing that, at its essence, this is all love is.
1. ‘Thunder Road’
One of Bruce Springsteen’s most popular songs has had many transformations over the years. From ‘Angelina’ to ‘Chrissie’s Song’ and on to ‘Thunder Road’, the song is a composite of Springsteen’s view of the American culture and especially love.
Standing as Born to Run’s opening track is always a tough thing to do, and it seems as though Springsteen had recorded the song with this in mind. Seeing the album as a series of Americana vignettes, ‘Thunder Road’ acted as the “invitation” to the entire record. Opening with Bittan’s piano and Springsteen on harmonica is a gentle reminder of the songs’ soul. And the message is as old as time as Mary and her boyfriend try to give it “one last chance to make it real”. Springsteen works as the perfect narrator, full of charm and heartbreak, hell-bent on love.
It may well be the first song on the album, but it’s about all you need to hear of the record to know what it’s all about—mythology, love, loss and living for the American Dream. It is the distillation of everything that made Bruce Springsteen a star.