The former New Jersey governor idolizes Bruce Springsteen, but their political differences have led to frostiness. Now, according to Chris Christie, their relationship is “a good one.”
Chris Christie has been to more than 150 Bruce Springsteen concerts, knows the words to every song and treasures the ticket stubs he has collected.
But despite his unrequited love and near-obsessive fandom for his fellow New Jerseyan, Mr. Christie has found that his Republican politics have led to an often frosty relationship with Mr. Springsteen, who has supported Democrats in the past and hosted a podcast with former President Barack Obama.
Now, though, Mr. Christie says he and his idol are on better terms.
“It’s been a variable relationship over the years because we both have very passionate feelings about politics and we’re on different sides of the spectrum,” Mr. Christie said in an interview on Tuesday. “But of late, I think what we both recognized is that we’re both good husbands, good fathers and love our state, and as people, care a lot about what we do. So I’d say our relationship right now is a good one.”
“Thunder Road”? Former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey spoke with The New York Times about his favorite Bruce Springsteen tune.CreditCredit…Emily Rhyne for The New York Times
Mr. Christie did not elaborate on their interactions. Representatives for Mr. Springsteen, who recently announced that he was postponing performances while he is treated for symptoms of peptic ulcer disease, declined to comment.
Mr. Christie was spotted at multiple stops on Mr. Springsteen’s tour this summer, including on the side of the stage during his band’s three-show run at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey two weeks ago.
Mr. Springsteen seems to be working on the relationship, too, according to Mr. Christie. The former governor also spoke Tuesday about a phone call he received from the musician after a concert in Brooklyn this year, after Mr. Springsteen spotted him in the pit during the concert.
“I thought Bruce saw me during the show,” Mr. Christie told Steve Scully at a SiriusXM town hall event in New Hampshire. “And my wife thought I was crazy: ‘Oh yeah sure, Bruce smiled and waved to you.'”
Mr. Christie went on, “We get in the car, we’re driving back to New Jersey, my cellphone rings at 11:45 at night.” He added: “So I answered the phone and I said, ‘Chris Christie,’ and he said, ‘Gov., it’s Bruce.’ And he said, ‘I saw you in the pit tonight.'”
“And I went to my wife, I go: ‘I told you. I told you he saw me!'” Mr. Christie said at the town hall.
Mr. Christie keeps the ticket stubs for Springsteen concerts he has attended.Credit…Juan Arredondo for The New York Times
Even though Mr. Christie has followed the rock star across their home state and the country — and can often identify a Springsteen song after hearing just a few opening bars — his political positions have kept him far from Mr. Springsteen’s inner circle.
In 2011, when Mr. Christie was governor of New Jersey, Mr. Springsteen wrote an letter to the editor in The Asbury Park Press criticizing Mr. Christie’s proposed budget cuts. In 2012, Mr. Christie told The Atlantic that he had regularly been given the cold shoulder by Mr. Springsteen’s world.
Yet Mr. Christie’s stewardship of the state after Hurricane Sandy led to a thaw, which Mr. Christie said at the time brought him to tears. At a later event, Mr. Christie seemed to make it official: “We’re friends.”
That bond soon frayed. As Mr. Christie faced blistering national headlines in 2013 and 2014 over the scandal involving the closing of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, Mr. Springsteen joined Jimmy Fallon on his late-night NBC talk show to perform a revised version of “Born to Run,” with some adjusted lyrics.
“Someday, governor, I don’t know when, this will all end, but till then you’re killing the working man, who’s stuck in Gov. Chris Christie’s Fort Lee, New Jersey, traffic jam,” Mr. Springsteen and Mr. Fallon sang.
Mr. Springsteen, left, and Jimmy Fallon spoofed Mr. Christie during a performance on Mr. Fallon’s late-night NBC talk show.Credit…Lloyd Bishop/NBCUniversal, via Getty Images
Still, Mr. Christie remained a devoted Springsteen fan. After eight years as governor, he spent his first night as a regular citizen at Mr. Springsteen’s Broadway show, sitting in the second row, a treat from Mr. Christie’s wife.
Though he has been careful not to overuse Mr. Springsteen’s music in his political campaigns, lest he invite more public criticism from the Boss, Mr. Christie recently put “Thunder Road” at the top of his campaign playlist, after Politico asked 2024 presidential candidates to provide their favorite songs.
Mr. Christie noted in the interview on Tuesday that Politico had asked the candidates — with varying success — to list only one song per artist. Otherwise he would have chosen “a lot more” Springsteen songs, he said. “And unlike others, I followed the rules.”
He spoke at some length about his relationship with “Thunder Road,” one of Mr. Springsteen’s biggest hits and the first song on his famed album “Born to Run,” revealing an optimistic side of the former New Jersey governor not often seen on the campaign trail, where he lays into the Republican front-runner, Donald J. Trump.
“I think ‘Thunder Road’ is a song that is both realistic and hopeful,” Mr. Christie said. “The beginning of it, the piano intro, is so welcoming, and I smile every time I hear it. And so to me, any song that makes me smile every time I hear it, no matter what my mood is, it’s going to be one of my favorite songs.”
He went on: “And I love the way he sings it. I love the lyrics and I love the way it makes me feel. It makes me feel like the world’s open to be welcomed for possibilities, for aspirations, for ambition. And I think that’s what Bruce was saying in 1975. Remember, that was a 25-year-old Bruce Springsteen writing that song. And it has that sense, hopefulness, in it.”
Mr. Christie paid homage to Mr. Springsteen’s debut album, “Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.” with a banner at an election night party in 2013.Credit…Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis, via Getty Images
When asked about the climactic lyric in the song — “It’s a town full of losers, I’m pulling out of here to win” — Mr. Christie said he found another connection with Mr. Springsteen.
“It’s part of what everybody at that age feels,” Mr. Christie said. “I’m going to get away from the things that are holding me down, and I’m going to go out there and make my place in the world. And I’ve heard Bruce joke from time to time that he wrote ‘Born to Run’ when he was 25 years old, and the guy who was ‘born to run’ is now raising his family and living out his adult life 15 minutes from where he grew up, so he wasn’t born to run too far. And I think it’s the same thing with me and New Jersey, too. No matter where else I go, that will always be home.”
Even if the two men are friendlier now, Mr. Christie has acknowledged that there are limits.
Asked at a recent event in New Hampshire if Mr. Springsteen would sing at his hypothetical inauguration, Mr. Christie demurred, saying: “Oh, that’s a lot to ask. I don’t know.”
“He’s still a Democrat,” he said.