As Bruce Springsteen obsessives are doubtless aware, a dispute of volcanic proportions has erupted over the first words of arguably the greatest song he’s ever recorded, “Thunder Road.”
It was triggered by a July 4 tweet by The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, apparently attending Springsteen’s newly revived Broadway show: “A screen door slams, Mary’s dress sways,” she wrote, ostensibly quoting the opening lyrics of the opening song on Springsteen’s breakthrough album, “Born to Run.”
Dissecting the argument that this one small sentence has prompted in the week and a half since, Rob Tannenbaum noted in the LA Times on Thursday that Haberman was indisputably mistaken once in her seven-word excerpt. It’s “The screen door” not “A screen door.” But what about that dress? Is it swaying, as Haberman claimed? Or waving, as per the lyrics printed on the original album cover?
While marveling that this spectacularly sublime and ridiculous argument has erupted now, 46 years after the song was released, I’ll leave it Tannenbaum to take you through the evidence for and against.
What I will highlight, however, is the curt, Yiddish-led response from Springsteen’s longtime guitarist Steven Van Zandt.
Tweeted the ex-Sopranos star, of partial Italian but no known Jewish descent: “Oy vey! Get this Bruce lyric shit outta my feed!”
Oy vey! Get this Bruce lyric shit outta my feed! https://t.co/9NndRYbucU
— Stevie Van Zandt (@StevieVanZandt) July 5, 2021
Van Zandt’s previous appearance in the columns of The Times of Israel was when defending the State of Israel from accusations of apartheid in a series of pithy ripostes back in 2016, culminating with this showstopper: “The problems there have existed for a thousand years and you want the solution in 140 characters?”
“Israel is one of our two friends,” Van Zandt also wrote in the course of that Twitter battle, bashing Israel boycotters as “politically ignorant obnoxious idiots,” and thereby raising still unfulfilled expectations that Springsteen and the rest of the E Street Band might one day make it to these parts. (Expectations Springsteen himself has also fuelled, kinda.)
Until then, all we can do is listen to the recordings, which I’ve just been doing.