When it comes to the ups and downs of love, The Boss has shared some valuable lessons with us over the years. Here are some of the most important points in a romantic education, Springsteen style:
1. Love Makes it Impossible to Sleep - In the oft-covered "I'm On Fire," Bruce rumbles the line "at night I wake up with the sheets soaking wet/ and a freight-train running through the middle of my head/ but you/ you cool my desire." Anyone who's ever felt the pangs of a complicated love affair can immediately identify with this exhausting sentiment.
2. You Can Be Your Own Worst Enemy- We've all done our share of damage to ourlove lives, but the gravelly voice of the Boss can make us feel the pain of those regrets when he pours his heart into the apologetic "Back In Your Arms." His plea for forgiveness is wrenching with lines like "All the love I've thrown away and lost/ I'm longin' for again/ Now darlin' I just wanna be back in your arms."
3. Love Isn't Easy - Even the best relationships come with their share of struggles; few songs capture the reality of love on a day-to-day basis like Springsteen's "If I Should Fall Behind." This plainly stated, touching ballad is a mature realization of the ups and downs that come in any love affair, especially during the last verse: "Now everyone dreams of a love lasting and true/ But you know and I know what this world can do/ So let's make our steps clear that the other may see/ And I'll wait for you/ If I should fall behind/ Wait for me."
4. Lost Love Can Be Haunting - This 2003 gem is a great example of how lost love can haunt you, long after it's gone. The atmospheric backing sounds paired with the edgy, effects-laden guitar serves as a perfect vehicle for lyrics that show The Boss at his tortured best; it's almost impossible not to think of a love gone wrong when he says, "There's nights I still hear your footsteps fall/ Your key in the door, your voice in the hall/ Your smell drifts through our bedroom/ I wake, but I don't move."
5. Love Really is All You Need - Despite his frequent pessimism, "This Life" finds Springsteen in a point of contentment. The toe-tapping rhythm and doo-wop vibe is infectious; when he sings "This life and then the next/ With you I have been blessed," it's easy to believe that sometimes, love really is enough.
6. Being in Love Means You Never Fight Alone - The straightforward folk sound of "When You Need Me" might bring Townes Van Zant and even Gram Parsons to mind, but the message is pure Boss: life is hard, and everything goes wrong, but love gives you strength. The pared down arrangement is a far cry from the arena-anthem hits that most people associate with Springsteen, but lines like "And when those mean days come along/ We'll stand together and we'll take 'em on" still bear his trademark blue collar, ready-to-fight fingerprints.
7. You Have To Be Willing To Take a Chance - The rollicking, sing-along chorus of "Countin' On a Miracle" perfectly captures the moment of throwing caution to the wind and hoping for love to work out against all odds. From the first verse promise of "If I'm a fool, I'll be a fool/ Darlin' for you," to the shouted ending of "I'm countin' on a miracle to come through," this 2002 track shines.
8. Love Gone Wrong is a Kind of Prison - This synth-driven track builds from an almost somber first verse to a bombastic chorus that perfectly frames the feeling of an ill-fated, inescapable love affair. As he almost whispers, "I know someday I'll walk out of here again" before the passionately shouted "Well, now I'm trapped," he paints a painful picture of the kind of captivity that only comes from loving someone who will never treat you well.
9. A Broken Heart Leaves Scars - The bluesy "All the Way Home" from Springsteen's 2005 album Devils & Dust tackles the fear of giving love a chance after being burned one too many times. The aw-shucks appeal of the second verse, "Now you got no reason to trust me/ My confidence is a little rusty/ But if you don't feel like bein' alone/ Baby, I could walk you all the way home," is the Boss at his best: honest and unflinching.
10. Love Never Really Fades - Everyone has a love they can't quite let go of, even if it's long gone. "Hearts of Stone" is a perfectly executed boardwalk ballad about those late-night phone calls, after you've both moved on. When he wails "I can't talk now, I'm not alone/ So put your ear close to the phone/ 'Cause this is the last dance/ This is the last chance for hearts of stone," you can almost hear doors to the past slamming shut. "Hearts of Stone" is a testament to the fact that the lines of love are rarely drawn clearly.
With a career that spans more than three decades and over two dozen albums, there are few lessons in life that Bruce Springsteen can't teach.
Bruce Springsteen photo courtesy of Danny Clinch.Bruce Springsteen photo courtesy of Danny Clinch.