For almost half a century, anyone who trusts lyric sheets and official artist websites has been sure of one thing: In Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road”, Mary’s dress waves and it does not sway. Whatever some people may think they hear him sing, it has been right there in writing, from the lyrics that came with the original vinyl press from 1975, to those that were still published on the artist’s website in July 2021. “Waves” was not a perfect rhyme with “acting,” but Springsteen has never been obsessed with perfection. Would the guy leaning on Clarence Clemons’ shoulder mislead us in writing?
This trust in the printed word turns out to be misplaced. After a two-week national debate that threatened to become a civil war, the matter has been settled, not entirely by Springsteen himself, but by his longtime manager Jon Landau, who co-produced the album “Born to Run”.
“The word is ‘swaying,'” Landau New Yorker David Remnick, who reached out to him via email to resolve the matter, said.
As for how it has always been printed in the album cover – and in the text section on his boss / client’s website?
“Any typographical errors in official Bruce material will be corrected,” Landau said. (In fact, shortly after this article was published on Saturday night, the site was changed to use the word “swaying.” A screenshot of the page with “waves” from Saturday afternoon appears below.)
To anyone who believed in anything else in all these decades, the leader does not sound very sympathetic. “By the way, ‘dresses’ do not know how to ‘wave’,” Landau said in conclusion.
Ahem, yes, exactly, say the pro- “swaying” hordes who have constantly insisted that they could rely on their own ears over printed materials and that clear clothing does not have a quality to range from. As the other side may have counter-argued: What is what Star-Spangled Banner does again?
(And really, isn’t one of them fair? Maybe waving, like the flag if it is the answer to a breeze, but sway if it’s more subject to the combination of gravity and Maria’s changing posture, as she is considering the offer of cross-country skiing in a admittedly dirty car that may not have AC?)
In any case, Landau elaborated further “sways”: “This is how he wrote it in his original notebooks, this is how he sang it on ‘Born to Run’ in 1975, this is how he has always sung on thousands of shows, and this is how he sings it right now on Broadway. ”And he could have added, that’s how Springsteen rendered it when he quoted“ Thunder Road ”in his 2016 autobiography, at which point a reasonable doubt began to enter the minds of those who had maintained that everyone had to have a little faith in the original album jacket to get it right, yet it is was wrong – just as wrong as a fan’s hasty transcription of a new hip-hop album on Genius.com on a Thursday night.
If anyone is wondering why this became a matter of serious national concern in the summer of ’21, please thank the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, who knows serious national concerns. She had apparently not previously recognized this as such when she starred in “Springsteen on Broadway” on July 3 and innocently tweeted out what turned out to be the correct “swaying” line that instantly rages about half of America, as some Haberman tweets don’t usually do.
A screen door slams, Mary’s dress sways pic.twitter.com/EcFpwPtyjr
– Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) July 3, 2021
The firestorm continued on social media for nearly two weeks before Los Angeles Times contributor Rob Tannenbaum published one of the most captivating pieces of investigative journalism in the music space since Jim DeRogatis’ R. Kelly reported. However, Tannenbaum’s inquiries led to a “Rashomon” -ic dead end. The author noted that two years ago, Sotheby’s had auctioned off Springsteen’s original handwritten texts that read “The Screen Door Slams Anne-dress swaying”, which seemed revealing, but also raised the question of whether to trust a guy who had promised both Anne and Mary he would take them away. Artists who have covered the song over the years help them always sing “waves”, and Melissa Etheridge, who sang it as a duet with Springsteen on “MTV Unplugged”, told the Times that she discussed the lyrics with him at the time and “he would have told me if it were not ‘waves. ‘ He would have said, ‘You sing wrong, honey.’ So it’s definitely ‘waves’. “Declared country star Eric Church, who has also often covered the tune:” ‘Sways’ is sexier. In assessing the empirical evidence, Tannenbaum firmly concluded: “Springsteen is not one of the great preachers of the rock.”
Meanwhile, Steven Van Zandt, who could have run to the rescue and who accounts for so many topics on Twitter, had found someone he considered himself under him. In response to inquiries, the E Street Band guitarist wrote: “Oy vey. Get this Bruce lyrical shit out of my feed! ”
Oops! Get this Bruce lyrical shit out of my feed! https://t.co/9NndRYbucU
– Stevie Van Zandt (@StevieVanZandt) July 5, 2021
Springsteen’s camp had declined to comment on the Los Angeles Times play two days ago, suggesting the man may have preferred to leave the mystery alone. But when it’s New Yorker editor David Remnick himself who sends the email to Jon Landau, it’s easier to get a definitive answer. And now the long-sought answer no longer blows in the wind (or sways’ or whatever) in the wind.
Mary could not be reached for comment as to whether or not this was particularly beautiful.