‘Sways’ or ‘waves’? Debate over Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Thunder Road’ lyrics about Mary’s dress, has ended
“The word is ‘sways’ — 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,” said longtime Springsteen collaborator and manager Jon Landau.
The fierce debate over Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” lyrics, and the movement of Mary’s dress in the classic song, is officially over.
The fireworks appropriately started just before Independence Day, when The New York Times journalist Maggie Haberman tweeted the commonly accepted and often-crooned “Thunder Road” opening lyric from Springsteen’s seminal 1975 “Born to Run” album.
“A screen door slams, Mary’s dress sways,” Haberman wrote, with a picture of the empty stage before a “Springsteen on Broadway” performance. That led to a series of Twitter commentators saying Haberman was blinded by the light, and that the lyric is “waves,” not “sways.”
The Los Angeles Times investigated the cresting “waves”/”sways” controversy, stating, “Springsteen is not one of rock’s great enunciators, and because ‘dress’ ends with a sibilant S, ‘suh-ways’ is difficult to distinguish from ‘suh-waves.’ So the topic is up for debate, right?”
A screen door slams, Mary’s dress sways pic.twitter.com/EcFpwPtyjr— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) July 3, 2021
E Street guitarist and longtime collaborator Stevie Van Zandt was not touching the issue, telling one Twitter questioner, ”Oy vey! Get this Bruce lyric (expletive) outta my feed!”
Springsteen was mum on the issue, but on his official website and in his songbook, the word is “waves.” However, Springsteen uses “sways” on page 220 of his “Born To Run” memoir and in his handwritten lyrics, which were auctioned off by Sotheby’s in 2018.
The New Yorker editor David Remnick entered and ended the debate by emailing longtime Springsteen collaborator and manager Jon Landau, co-producer of “Born to Run.”
“Short of Springsteen himself, no one could answer the question more definitively than Landau,” Remnick wrote in an article published Saturday.
“The word is ‘sways,’ “ Landau wrote back. “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. Any typos in official Bruce material will be corrected. And, by the way, ‘dresses’ do not know how to ‘wave.’ ”
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