As part of a New York Times article titled “What You Really Want to Know About the Candidates for New Jersey Governor,” the state’s gubernatorial candidates were asked to name their favorite Bruce Springsteen songs. Brief comments by the candidates about the song were also included.
Here are the choices as well as the candidates’ comments, plus some of my thoughts, and a video for each song.
(Gov. Christie, by the way, put together a personal Top 10 Springsteen list for The Atlantic in 2012. It included “Thunder Road,” “Growin’ Up,” “Prove It All Night,” “The Rising,” “She’s the One,” “Kitty’s Back,” “Because the Night,” “Born to Run,” “Spirit in the Night” and “Out in the Street”).
PHIL MURPHY (D)
Choice: “Thunder Road”
What Murphy said: “A majestic, incredibly tight, well-done song, with some of the greatest lyrics ever written.”
What I say: A pretty unimpeachable choice. “Thunder Road” is widely considered, by Springsteen fans and experts, to be one of his masterpieces.
JIM JOHNSON (D)
Choice: “Blood Brothers”
What Johnson said: “Like life, the song’s got sorrow and hope riding side by side, but hope’s got the reins.”
What I say: “Blood Brothers” was never released as a single, and has only been played at four concerts, so either Johnson’s a hardcore Springsteen fan, or he went looking for a song whose message resonated with him, and found this. I can’t really criticize the choice, though (and in this day and age, it’s nice to think that a song about shared burdens resonates with a politician).
JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D)
Choice: “Born to Run”
What Wisniewski said: “The quintessential Jersey Shore song. It should be the state song.”
What I say: Another signature Boss song, and a widely acknowledged masterpiece. Others have suggested that it be made the state song before, but the idea has never picked up much traction, in part due to the darkness of the lyrics. Really, should a song that talks about a “runaway American dream” and imagines vehicles as “suicide machines” be an official state anthem?
RAY LESNIAK (D)
Choice: “Jack of All Trades”
What Lesniak said: “Reminds me of my dad.”
What I say: I have to wonder if Lesniak ever has listened to this song all the way through. The song’s narrator is a working class guy, doing his best to make the best out of whatever life throws at him. But he’s also fatalistic (“The banker man grows fat, working man grows thin/It’s all happened before and it’ll happen again”) and, ultimately, shows a violent streak (“If I had me a gun, I’d find the bastards and shoot ’em on sight”).
KIM GUADAGNO (R)
Choice: “Atlantic City”
What Guadagno said: “Or whatever my brother-in-law Pat Guadagno, the hardest-working musician at the Jersey Shore, is playing.”
What I say: It was nice of her to get the plug in. But it’s also a wishy-washy answer. She’ll go with “Atlantic City” … unless Pat is playing something else, in which case she’ll go with that.
JACK CIATTARELLI (R)
Choice: “Hungry Heart”
What Ciattarelli said: “Great lyrics, rhythm and beat.”
What I say: This is a choice a political consultant would love: Ciattarelli is the only candidate who went with one of Springsteen’s 12 Top 10 hits. Some fans may consider “Hungry Heart” a bit lightweight, because of its sweet melody, but there are dark undercurrents to it, too, and a kind of universality that has made it one of Springsteen’s most frequently covered songs.