Monday, 20 June 2011

Who the hell is Mary?

So just who is this "Mary" person who Bruce Springsteen is always singing about?

One thing that has always fascinated me about Bruce Springsteen, more than music, was his fascination with this mystery girl. There's always something quite interesting about the stories he weaves and the emotions he conjures up in his music.

It's not like he doesn't sing about other girls. After all there's Sandy, Candy, Rosalita, Linda, Crazy Janey, Cynthia, Gloria, Maria and Sherry among others.

Some years ago, an uncle of mine was raving about Bruce and he mentioned Bruce's fixation with a girl named "Mary". For some reason, that conversation has stayed with me and I keep hearing this "Mary" character mentioned more and more when I listen to Bruce's work.

So who is she? In certain songs, such as "Jesus Was An Only Son", "Terry's Song", and "Linda, Let Me Be The One" the name "Mary" is used as a religious image, that of St Mary, mother of Jesus. However the same reasoning cannot be applied to a song like "Thunder Road", surely!

Given the fact that the name turns up as the protagonists girlfriend in a number of songs, from "Thunder Road" to "The River" to "The Rising" it makes me think there is more to it than meets the eye.

I think that maybe "Mary" isn't a real person at all. I think she is a character sketch, a fictitious entity, a muse. An intangible, non-existent woman for the purposes of fictitious writings. She would most likely be a composite character, someone who's experiences and behaviours and other details would be borrowed from real people and ascribed to this fictitious entity for the purposes of the song. Plus the fact that the name is easy to say - it just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? Considering it turns up quite a lot in his work, I think the topic is worth more than an inconspicuous footnote in Bruce's biography...

Indeed, the man himself has been quoted, from VH1 Storytellers no less, as saying something to the effect of "Mary can be many people. A mother Mary, Jesus' Mary, a fictional Mary... pretty much... whomever you want her to be."

Here is a celebration of Springsteen's "Mary" below.

"Mary's Place"
"Thunder Road"
"Mary, Queen of Arkansas"
"The Rising"
"The River"
"Gypsy Biker"
"Bring On The Night"
"Car Wash"


Oh, and R.I.P Mr Clarence Clemons.


  1. The River is about Mary, his sister. Not sure about the others.

    1. He doesn't have a sister named Mary; only Ginny and Pamela. The River is about Ginny and her husband.

  2. You miss some from the Seager Sessions like OH MARY DONT YOU WEEP

  3. Could it be in reference to spirituality, or a spiritual connection or feeling at the time as Christ had for Mary Magdalene?