Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road" Lyrics Debate Has Finally Been Settled
What was Mary's dress doing on the opening track of 'Born to Run?'
Published Jul 19, 2021Forty-five years after "Thunder Road" opened Bruce Springsteen's third album Born to Run, a lyrical debate amongst the most ardent listeners of the Boss has officially been settled.
Vulture points to the journey down the songwriting rabbit hole beginning March 3, after New York Times political reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted a line from "Thunder Road" while waiting to take in Springsteen's return to Broadway.
Haberman writing, "A screen door slams, Mary's dress sways" ended up leading to days of online conjecture as to whether the final word of the lyric was "sways" or "waves."
An investigation published last week by the Los Angeles Times found that the gatefold jacket of Born to Run's original vinyl pressing — along with early and reissued CD releases, Springsteen's website and 1998 book Bruce Springsteen: Songs — features printed lyrics in which "Mary's dress waves."
Additionally, a handwritten draft of Springsteen's "Thunder Road" lyrics that sold at auction for $62,500 in 2019 also features the word "sways." However, the artist's Born to Run autobiography from 2016 notes the lyric as "Mary's dress sways."
The debate led The New Yorker's editor-in-chief David Remnick to reach out to Springsteen's longtime manager Jon Landau in search of a definitive answer.
"The word is 'sways,'" Landau answered. "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."
Landau humorously added, "And, by the way, 'dresses' do not know how to 'wave.'"
Mike Appel, who managed Springsteen at the time of Born to Run's release — and submitted the "Thunder Road" lyrics with the U.S. Copyright Office for its official registration — shared with the the Los Angeles Times, "I heard him sing it I don't know how many times, and it was always 'sways.'"
This year has seen Bruce Springsteen launch a podcast with Barack Obama and visit "Dustland" with the Killers. Last year, he released his 20th album, Letter to You.