We finally know what Mary's dress does in Bruce Springsteen's 'Thunder Road'​

It's an answer to a decades long debate
Bruce Springsteen
Photo credit Getty Images

It’s one of the great lyrical mysteries in all of music. Now, nearly 46 years after its release, we finally have our answer.

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The opening line of the iconic Bruce Springsteen song “Thunder Road” has always stirred up great debate. Depending who you ask, you’ll get one of two responses. “The screen door slams, Mary’s dress waves,” or, “The screen door slams, Mary’s dress sways.”

Before we give you the definitive answer, take a listen to the song below and decide for yourself whether Mary’s dress “waves” or “sways.”

Pretty convincing argument for both, right? Well, according to Springsteen’s manager and Born to Run co-producer Jon Landau, the correct lyric is… “sways.”

Here’s how recent attention to the lyric finally solved this decades long mystery. New York Times journalist Maggie Haberman tweeted out a photo from Springsteen’s Broadway show with the “Thunder Road” opening line, “a screen door slams, Mary’s dress sways.”

The tweet immediately stirred up debate as to what the correct lyric is.

Landau settled the debate in an email to the New Yorker. “The word is ‘sways,’” Landau said.

“That’s the way he wrote it in his original notebooks, 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.’”

Case closed!

Oddly enough, “waves” appears as the correct lyric on his official website and his songbook. Springsteen also listed the lyric as “sways” in his Born To Run memoir and in handwritten lyrics.

Next time you cue up “Thunder Road” at karaoke night, you’ve now got the correct lyrics at hand.

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