Bruce Springsteen’s Producer Jon Landau Sets Record Straight About “Thunder Road” Lyric

Bruce Springsteen’s manager and producer Jon Landau breaks his silence regarding a lyric in the 1975 song “Thunder Road,” from Springsteen’s Born to Run record. The opening line reads: The screen door slams / Mary’s dress sways. But many listeners over the years have claimed the word is not “sways”—but rather “waves.” To make matters worse, Springsteen’s songbook and website use “waves,” whereas “sways” appears in the singer-songwriter’s 2016 memoir and in handwritten lyrics.

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The debate reached a fever pitch over the weekend after a tweet from Maggie Haberman went viral. After much back and forth online, including a zinger of a tweet from collaborator Steven Van Zandt, The New Yorker reached out to Landau, producer of the album, for clarification about the lyric.

“The word is ‘sways.’ That’s the way he wrote it in his original notebooks,” Landau said, “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.'”

Two years ago, E Street bassist Gary Tallent recollected how the song came to be. “It was very organic. We were all kind of caught up in doing it, and we didn’t think too much about it,” he told American Songwriter. “We just tried to make it sound right, and tried to make it feel right. ‘Thunder Road’ was one of those songs that, with the pictures that the words gave you – it was just real immediate, and we said, ‘Yeah, okay! This is a great song, let’s work on this. Let’s make this happen.”

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