The Boss is Back

The Boss is back on the playlist at Montclair State, where the music, art and life of the superstar was explored in a class this past summer taught by Classics and Humanities professor – and mega fan – Prudence Jones.

Prudence Jones
Prudence Jones, Bruce Springsteen superfan

Jones has contributed to the scholarly research on the 72-year-old New Jersey rocker, applying her academic expertise of “more ancient stuff” to interpret American pop culture and how Bruce Springsteen’s work reflects the American experience in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

“My specialization and background is Latin poetry, particularly the Augustan poets,” Jones says. “There’s a fair amount of love poetry, so analyzing lyrics, analyzing poetry, it’s not that big of a jump for me.”

All of which made Jones particularly qualified to weigh in with a scholarly take on last summer’s debate over the lyrics to Springsteen’s “Thunder Road.” When the Boss ushered in the return to live theater with Springsteen on Broadway, fans took to Twitter arguing about the words “sways” versus “waves” from the opening line, “A screen door slams, Mary’s dress sways” … or to some ears … “Mary’s dress waves.”

Thanks to The New Yorker, fans got their answer on what Mary’s dress is doing (it’s “sways,” according to Springsteen’s manager and producer Jon Landau). But a close reading of liner notes by Jones led her to a different conclusion.

“My opinion is that Bruce has performed it both ways and thus there is no 100% accurate answer,” Jones says, pointing to the times when Springsteen used “waves” and times he used “sways.” “I think that the answer truly is that it is both and which one we get depends on how Bruce recreates the song in each performance.”