Bruce Springsteen Settles 47-Year Debate Over “Thunder Road” Lyric

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Bruce Springsteen kicked off his first of several nights on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon with his rendition of “Turn Back the Hands of Time.” Also a sit-down guest on the show, Springsteen went ahead and cleared up a long debate over specific lyrics in his 1975 hit “Thunder Road.”

In 2021, a debate over exact lyrics of the song re-emerged on social media. Some people believe the lyric is A screen door slams / Mary’s dress sways, while others believe it’s A screen door slams / Mary’s dress waves.

“I knew you were going to ask this question, so I came prepared,” said Springsteen as he pulled out a copy of the Born to Run album. “Thunder Road” is the opening track on Springsteen’s third album, which catapulted him into stardom.

“This record is almost 50 years old,” said Springsteen. “Fifty years ago, I was a sociopath. I was insane about every single detail that had anything to do with music, my album, my album cover, my lyrics. I went over everything with a fine-tooth comb so everything would be perfect and completely accurate. The lyrics to ‘Thunder Road’ are in this album. The correct lyrics.”

Reading the lyrics inside the vinyl, Springsteen catches the error in the first part. “‘The screen door slams,’” read Springsteen from the album lyrics. “I’ve been singing ‘sways’ for almost 50 years.”

Reading the rest of the lyrics, Springsteen pauses after Mary’s Dress before saying, “‘Waves.'”

“What?” said Fallon. “It is ‘Waves?'”

“This is wrong,” Springsteen added. “This is wrong. I’m telling you this is wrong. How did that happen?”

Fallon said, “I’m more confused than I was before I asked.”

Answering more fan questions, Springsteen also said that he wrote almost all of Born to Run on piano.

Springsteen is scheduled to perform several songs from his new album, Only the Strong Survive, on four episodes of the Tonight Show, including tonight (Nov. 16). The singer’s final appearance is on Thanksgiving Day on Thursday, Nov. 24.

Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for SUFH

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