One reason I love this country is because of our ability, even in trying times like now, to come together and lose our collective shit over trivialities like one word in the first verse of a Bruce Springsteen song.
I mean, this is priceless.
In case anyone is wondering why this became a matter of grave national concern in the summer of ’21, you can thank the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, who knows grave national concerns. She apparently hadn’t previously recognized this one as such, though, when she attended “Springsteen on Broadway” July 3 and innocently tweeted out what turned out to be the correct “sways” line, instantly enraging about half of America, as some Haberman tweets are wont to do.
The firestorm continued on social media for close to two weeks before Los Angeles Times contributor Rob Tannenbaum published one of the most riveting pieces of investigative journalism in the music space since Jim DeRogatis’ R. Kelly reporting. Tannenbaum’s inquiries, though, led to a “Rashomon”-ic dead end. The writer noted that Sotheby’s had two years ago auctioned off Springsteen’s original handwritten lyrics, which read, “The screen door slams Anne dress sways,” which did seem revealing but also raised the question of whether to trust a guy who’d promised both Anne and Mary he would take them away. Artists who’ve covered the song over the years aid they’d always sung “waves,” and Melissa Etheridge, who sang it as a duet with Springsteen on “MTV Unplugged,” told the Times she discussed the lyrics with him then and “he would’ve told me if it wasn’t ‘waves.’ He would’ve said, ‘You’re singing it wrong, honey.’ So it’s definitely ‘waves.’” Declared country star Eric Church, who’s also often covered the tune: “‘Sways’ is sexier.” Assessing the empirical evidence at hand, Tannenbaum firmly concluded: “Springsteen is not one of rock’s great enunciators.”
Meanwhile, Steven Van Zandt, who could have ridden to the rescue, and who expounds on so many subjects on Twitter, had found one he considered beneath him. In response to queries, the E Street Band guitarist wrote: “Oy vey. Get this Bruce lyric shit outta my feed!”
Two weeks of this!
This is healthy. No, really. It restores my faith in mankind that we can still lose ourselves in irrelevancies like this. ‘Murica, you go, girl!
Eh, what’s that? The song… oh, yeah. Here you go.