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Bruce Springsteen Settles Debate Over “Thunder Road” Lyric After 46 Years

The great debate over whether Mary's dress "waves" or "sways" was finally settled by Bruce Springsteen's manager

bruce springsteen thunder road lyric change waves sways born to run jon landau
Bruce Springsteen (Photo by Robert DeMartin)
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    For nearly half a century, Bruce Springsteen fans have seemingly confused by a particular line in his classic song “Thunder Road.”

    In the opening lines of 1975’s Born to Run, The Boss sings, “The screen door slams, Mary’s dress waves/ Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays.” Or, so we thought.

    Those specific lyrics were included in the album’s liner notes, and on every official lyric sheet since its release. But it’s not exactly a perfect rhyme, and debate has sprung up in the intervening decades over whether Springsteen actually means to sing “sways” instead of “waves.” After all, does a dress really wave when the person wearing it dances?

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    Well, it turns out Springsteen had the last word on the matter this week, handed down by his longtime manager (and Born to Run co-producer) Jon Landau. “The word is ‘sways,'” the manager confirmed to The New Yorker s David Remnick over email on Saturday. “Any typos in official Bruce material will be corrected.”

    “By the way, ‘dresses’ do not know how to ‘wave,'” Landau continued. “That’s the way he wrote it in his original notebooks, that’s the way he sang it on Born to Run, in 1975, that’s the way he has always sung it at thousands of shows, and that’s the way he sings it right now on Broadway.” (It also happens to be the way Springsteen quoted the lyrics in his 2016 autobiography — also titled Born to Run — which kicked off the whole debate to begin with.)

    Speaking of the singer’s hit one-man show on the Great White Way, Springsteen on Broadway returned to the St. James Theatre late last month for the first time since the coronavirus shut down Broadway, and is set to run through September 4th. (On opening night, The Boss made sure to land a well-timed joke regarding his November 2020 arrest for driving while intoxicated.)

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    When he’s not dazzling audiences on Broadway, Springsteen will likely be tuned into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where his daughter Jessica will be competing on the U.S. equestrian team. Later this summer, he’s also set to headline a celebratory homecoming concert in Central Park alongside Paul Simon and Jennifer Hudson.

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