When you think of Bruce Springsteen’s music you think of cars, factories and arena rock. But did you know that some of Bruce Springsteen’s music is also super gay? That’s right folks, there are Bruce Springsteen songs that are either explicitly or subtextually gay, and because I am both very gay, and a huge Bruce Springsteen fan, I’m going to tell you about them now.
DISCLAIMER: This is not to say, of course, that Bruce Springsteen is himself gay or queer. Springsteen often writes in character and just like he’s never fought in Vietnam or served time for statutory rape (re-listen to Working on the Highway because that’s EXACTLY what that song is about) these songs do not mean (ed. note: or…not not mean) that Springsteen himself has had any same-sex experiences.
With that said, let’s dive into Bruce Springsteen’s Gayest Hits.
1. Streets of Philadelphia
This one feels so obvious but I’ve seen straight people mistake lesbian wedding photos for photos of two friends in fun dresses, so let’s start with the obvious. Springsteen wrote this song for the movie Philadelphia, which was one of the first mainstream movies to deal with AIDS, particularly a gay character who had AIDS. The music video even has Tom Hanks, who played said gay character, in it.
But perhaps the clearest piece of evidence is the line “so receive me brother with your faithless kiss” which sounds pretty gay to me, unless the rest of you dudes out there platonically receive your friends with faithless kisses. If you do, I stand corrected.
The somewhat gender-neutral name “Terry” already has people thinking it’s about a man. Some say it could be about a romance with a woman named Terry, or a friendship with a man named Terry, or, the correct interpretation, a romance with a man named Terry. No love is quite so filled with defeat as a gay love in 1975.
These two “desperate lovers” are huddled in their cars, waiting to let loose in the deep heart of the night. The lies killed them, the truth ran them down, they saw lots of movies trying to live up to heroes they could never be. If that is not secret teenage gay love, I honestly don’t know what else it could be.
Now, one could read the line “I hated him and I hated you when you went away” as the character pining over a female lover who went to another man. But more accurately, one could read it as the character having his first love abruptly ended because of threats and prejudice from his father, or his male lover’s father, and would hate the man who split them apart.
I’m not saying that’s definitely what it means but I’m saying the evidence for both interpretations is there.
“Just one kiss from you my brother, and we’ll ride until we fall.” That’s an actual unedited line from the song. Not to mention that the character moves out to the frontier, or whatever, with his sister. Because he couldn’t find another women to love. Because he likes dudes. Specifically the dude who he lovingly refers to as brother and wants to ride all night (sorry).
Again, this might be a platonic best friends kiss.
4. Bobby Jean
Bobby Jean is a lesbian. It’s all but spelled out in the song. She likes men’s clothes and she understands Bruce like no one else, probably because they talk about the girls they have crushes on. When she leaves, Bruce doesn’t even try to get her back (if he ever had her in the first place) he just wishes her good luck and wants to say he misses her. He knows she better off finding lesbian love in San Francisco than stuck in the one horse town they used to live in where nobody understood them.
This hot femme drives a pink car and she won’t let Bruce have sex with her. I bet she falls in love with the nice butch girl in Frankie Fell in Love and they live happily ever after.
Actually not gay at all, but gets a special mention for the line “closets are for hangers, winners use the door” which is a gay line in an otherwise straight song. When you’re a gay audience, you take what you can get.
Bella Pori is a state government employee and co-founder of Call Them In, an email reminder service that makes it easy to call your Senators and support progressive legislation. She loves to talk about Bruce Springsteen, so talk to her on Twitter @BellaPori.