Bruce Springsteen’s Manager Settles “Thunder Road” Lyric Debate

John Minihan/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Bruce Springsteen’s Manager Settles “Thunder Road” Lyric Debate

John Minihan/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

For the past few weeks, certain corners of the internet have been divided over Bruce Springsteen. The point of contention has been the correct wording of the opening line of his Born To Run classic opener “Thunder Road.” On July 3rd, New York Times writer Maggie Haberman sent out a fairly innocuous tweet while waiting for Springsteen’s Broadway show to start, quoting the first line of the song: “[The] screen door slams, Mary’s dress sways.” But she was met with a whole lot of pushback over the final word of that lyric, with many insisting that Mary’s dress waves and does not sway.

They’re not necessarily wrong for thinking that. A couple days ago, the Los Angeles Times published a light-hearted but in-depth investigation into the phrasing of the song following the uproar over Haberman’s tweet. They talked to Springsteen collaborators, who were split on the issue. They consulted the lyrics as they were printed on the first edition of Born To Run, which does indeed have the lyric down as “waves,” as did Springsteen’s official website. But there was evidence to the contrary: Springsteen’s own memoir, also called Born To Run, has the lyric quoted as “sways” and a handwritten lyrics page that was auctioned off in 2019 also had Springsteen writing “sways.”

It seemed we might never get a definitive answer, but in a new column, The New Yorker‘s David Remnick got to the bottom of the controversy. He emailed Springsteen’s manager Jon Landau and received a straightforward response: “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, and that’s the way he sings it right now on Broadway.”

“Any typos in official Bruce material will be corrected,” he continued. “And, by the way, ‘dresses’ do not know how to ‘wave.'” And indeed, Springsteen’s official website now has the lyric down as “Mary’s dress sways.”

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