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The Boss Has Spoken

Resolution of ‘Thunder Road’ lyrics debate is ‘incredibly relatable’ for Montclair’s Springsteen scholar

Posted in: Classics and General Humanities, Homepage News and Events

Black and white photo of Professor Prudence Jones
Classics and General Humanities Professor Prudence Jones, a scholar of Augustan poets – and Springsteen – is glad the lyric debate is finally settled.

The Boss has spoken and the argument over the lyrics of “Thunder Road” has finally been put to rest – in an “incredibly relatable” way, says Montclair State University’s Springsteen scholar, Classics and General Humanities Professor Prudence Jones.

Appearing November 14 on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Bruce Springsteen clarified a longtime internet debate about the opening line in his classic 1975 song: “The screen door slams / Mary’s dress sways” versus “The screen door slams / Mary’s dress waves.”

“This record is almost 50 years old. Fifty years ago, I was a sociopath,” Springsteen joked to Fallon. “ 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.”

Springsteen says he’s been “singing ‘sways’ all these years. But reading from the album, he discovers the error: “The screen door slams / Mary’s dress waves.”

“This is wrong,” he says, laughing. “This is wrong. I’m telling you this is wrong. How did that happen?”

Montclair’s Springsteen scholar says she saw the clip – and totally understands the explanation.  “As someone who has written books and articles, I found it incredibly relatable,” Jones says. “Who hasn’t looked at the final published version of their work and seen an error or typo that got past all the editing and proofreading?”

Jones specializes in Latin poetry and has also contributed to the scholarly research on the New Jersey rocker, interpreting American pop culture and how Bruce Springsteen’s work reflects the American experience in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. She teaches a summer course, Selected Topics: Bruce Springsteen.

“I’m glad to have an answer from the man himself to something that I’ve wondered about – the handwritten lyrics in his notebooks have ‘sways’ and the lyric sounds to my ear like ‘sways,’ but ‘waves’ in the printed lyrics of the song’s first official release made me doubt ‘sways.’”

“Turns out there was a simple explanation.”

Story by Staff Writer Marilyn Joyce Lehren. Photo by University Photographer Mike Peters.

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