Surely one of the most amusing relationship dynamics in popular music is that between Bruce Springsteen and the Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie (a name which itself would seem more at home on a pop star than a politician).
Christie, a Republican, has for years been on the record as a HUGE Springsteen fan who’s attended over 100 shows and has often been seen bopping in the good seats pretty much any time the Boss has played the Jersey/NYC area.
Springsteen, an avowed progressive, loathes everything Christie stands for with every fiber of his being and never misses an opportunity to lambast the Governor over his mishandling of Bruceland.. I mean, the great state of New Jersey.
With the exception of a rare period of détente around the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy (how delicious is that irony, btw?) where the two appeared to mend the battered fence somewhat, the ideological differences have made any sustained relationship impossible.
Not so very long after Sandy, during the, so called, ‘Bridgegate’ debacle, Springsteen appeared on the Jimmy Fallon Show to mock the besieged Governor in song.
This must have stung Christie to some extent and in 2015 during an interview for LifeZette, he professed to like Bon Jovi more than the Boss. Then, several months later, he delivered what could only be described as the coup de grace to his tempestuous (and largely imaginary) relationship. In an interview with Sean Hannity, he stated bluntly that he is not friends with Springsteen, only that he knows him. And that he is friends with Bon Jovi.
This didn’t stop Christie from tweeting this little anecdote on the 40th anniversary of Born to Run;
This fractious situation has been playing out for years now and begs the question, why was Christie so enamored of an artist whose very core beliefs were and remain diametrically opposed to his own anyway?
Some say that the Governor’s great love of all things Boss was just politicking, a way of playing to the stands and showing New Jersians that he is one of them. This, however, does not actually seem to be the case.
Christie’s great unrequited love for Bruce seems to have been very long standing and completely genuine. Recently uncovered emails from the Springsteen listserv archives show the depth of the Governor’s early obsession.
Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2000 12:32:22 EST
Subject: Brush with Bruce at 30,000 feet
I am mostly a lurker, but now that the holiday craze is over, I have time to sit down and impart my great experience from the last show in Minnesota. My wife and I saw the second Asbury Park rehearsal, 8 of the NJ shows and one in Philly. What a great year. We finished up with “The last show of the Century” entertaining 15 clients at the final show in Minnesota. The show was amazing and everyone had a great time. But for us, the best was about to happen the next day.
We board the 11 am Northwest flight back to NJ the day after the show. My wife and I are sitting in 1st row of 1st class and getting out our books out of our bags and putting the luggage away in the overheads. From behind me I hear a voice say,”I think I’m sitting right back here.” I knew immediately–it was Bruce!
He was by himself–no Patty, no bodyguards–just Bruce, a baseball cap, jeans jacket, NY Times and Minneapolis Star-Tribune. I immediately go off the deep end.
The plane is then delayed 30 minutes on the ground and we have our chance. We walked back to see Bruce, introduced ourselves and told him we had flown in for the show last night and were headed home. He said, “Me, too.” We thanked him for the great performance the night before (and for all the great nights). He was incredibly gracious, we chatted briefly about where we lived, etc., and then said good-bye and went back to our seats (he was in the last row of 1st class).
When we landed in Newark we walked off the plane with Bruce right next to us. I asked him if I could tell him a little story. I told him about the night he played Sandy at the Continental Arena. My 6 year old son Andrew and I were in the front row on tix we won in the KACF auction. Bruce had thrown him a pick earlier in the evening and acknowledged his energy at 11 PM during Land of Hope and Dreams. (He said, looking at my six year old son, “He’s still going?”) He then introduced Sandy by pointing to my son and saying “We’re gonna send you home with a little lullaby.” As I finished this story in the jetway, Bruce said, “That was your little guy?” I said yes and told him how much it meant to my son (he’ll still calls Sandy “his” song) and how much it meant to me. He said he remebered and called Andrew “crazy” with a big grin and chuckle. He told me to tell Andrew he was glad he had such a good time and to come back again. I then asked Bruce if he could sign an autograph to Andrew and his 3 year old sister Sarah Anne (who had also been to 2 shows–one in Philly and one in Jersey). He was happy to do it and signed to both of them. He shook my hand, told my wife to make sure the kids got the autograph and wished us a Merry Christmas. His ride was waiting at the gate and he walked away. What an incredible time for me, a Bruce fan since 1976.
He was everything I hoped he would be if I ever got a chance to meet him–gracious and incredibly normal in a truly extraordinary way. That was my Christmas gift.
Chris from Mendham, NJ
I wonder how Bruce would have reacted had he known who that gushing fan would turn out to be in later years. I’d like to think he’d have been just as gracious. Christie didn’t approach his hero as a Republican but as a fan and a fellow music lover.
True Springsteen fans really should not be surprised by this seemingly contradictory state of affairs. The fact is, politics have nothing to do with music. You can shoehorn political messages into your songs but that’s rarely what people are responding to when they listen. It’s the emotions conveyed that determine how people will react. And your emotions are not governed by your political stripe.
Many of the blue-collar folk who listen to (and draw comfort from) Springsteen’s music are heartland Republicans who, nevertheless recognize themselves in the characters that populate the songs of this unapologetic progressive. Springsteen wouldn’t have it any other way, I’m sure.
The themes that can be found running through albums like Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town are universal. Springsteen doesn’t write about Republicans and Democrats, he writes about Americans and about those elements of our identity that are true for all.
So, though the relationship between Christie and his Boss is amusing on one level, on another it is a pure expression of the unity and inclusiveness that good music holds out to us all. The Governor has never been turned away from a Bruce show and I hope he never will be.