Live 05 May 1997 version

Award ceremony at Stockholm Concert Hall:

[Introductory speech by ???:] ...of the singing voice is sometimes concentrated on vocal force and tonal beauty. As demonstrated by, to mention one example, very persistent these last years, the Three Tenors, with all due respect, for their professional skill. I dare say, that in their case, the message is in the main the sound. I'm confident that Bruce Springsteen, if he were able to sing like them -- which he might be, I don't know -- never would feel that this would be enough. With his words and his music, Bruce Springsteen wanted from the very beginning to convey a message, or rather messages, going-giving ??? and very early, the world listened and responded. He became a longed-for reality to admirers and fans almost everywhere. Sometime ago -- many years now -- one of the jazz groups most thought of was the Jazz Messengers. This year, the Polar Prize has proudly formed a prize winning team, the spirited voice messengers Eric Ericson and Bruce Springsteen. I don't think that you will have any difficulty in relating to each other. We are truly happy and honored to count you among our prize winners.

[Ceremony host ???:] And so I would ask the prize winners to receive the Polar Prize from the hands of his Majesty the king. Would you please come up.

[Presentation by Tomas Ledin:] The American rock singer Bruce Springsteen is awarded the 1997 Polar Music Prize for an outstanding career as a singer, songwriter, and stage performer. His authority in rock music is unshakeable. For two decades now, he has been one of the most colorful personalities at the very center of the genre, and he is an uncompromising steward of the essential qualities of rock: its heavy beat and dynamic sound -- a harsh, sometimes crude, but at the same time spiritual sound ideal rooted in black rhythm and blues. In his lyrics he focuses on the little man's winding path through life with a certain melancholy and profound compassion. In a world of music where styles are fluctuating all the time, Bruce Springsteen stands with both feet firmly planted on the ground of rock 'n' roll. Although his records have sold in vast quantities, the live concert remains his natural medium. Bruce Springsteen, with his social pathos, is also a singer of the people, a modern "bard". He stands up straight and hits hard, but he does it so with discretion and not without tenderness.

Banquet at Grand Hotel:

[Banquet host ???:] Your Majesty, ladies and gentlemen, the recipient, or the other of today's prices, Mr. Bruce Springsteen.

[Bruce Springsteen:] Thanks you. I was uh, thinking of trying something by the Three Tenors as Mr. ??? suggested this afternoon [chuckles]. But I've had a few Swedish toasts, and uh, Princess Lillian has suggested that I stick to my own material so...

[Bruce Springsteen performs THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD]

[Bruce Springsteen:] Thank you. Tack [Swedish for "Thank you"], thank you. Yeah, thank you [clears throat] My, my speech here, I hope... I'd uh, I'd like to thank your Majesty, uh... Princess Christine, Fru [Swedish for "Mrs."] Magnussen, Princess Lillian and your Excellency, Stig Anderson, members of the Royal Swedish Academy Of Music, members of the Polar Music Prize Committee for honoring my music tonight with this award. It's been an additional source of joy to receive this award alongside Mr. Ericsson. Uh, his choral music, particularly the chamber choir, seem to be uh, filled with the intensity and the soul of his country. And in my music I've also tried to give people a sense of the country that I come from, its physicality, its landscape, its people, its blessings and its curses. When I started out I wasn't so concerned with uh, instantaneous success or the biggest hits as I was with making music that would find its way into people's daily lives that would become a part of them. And I wanted to uh, illuminate those lives, to provide companionship, if I could, and to provide a tool for making sense of the world that we live in, uh... a map made from whatever I've gained from my own experience, uh, something that I could pass on and, and, and share... I wanted to find my audience, my spiritual community, my blood brothers and sisters, somebody I could talk to who shared my concerns and my obsessions. And a little did I expect to find that audience, not only in my hometown, but thousands of miles away across oceans, language barriers, cultural differences and for a long time now here in Sweden. That's why I'm here tonight to uh, to thank that audience for it's the audience that gives my work its deepest meaning. Uh somewhere in our search for the things that we share and that we hold in common, there's a small glimpse of a perfect world. Whether it's in the everyday heroism or the people that I've sung about for 25 years or in the impossible beauty of the voices in Mr. Ericsson's choral work, there's a sense of a higher place, a more humane community, a deeper love and understanding of one another. That's the artist's job and it's in his audience that he finds his work's fulfillment. I've been received uh, very warmly and made to feel at home here in Sweden since 1975. My only regretful performance was in 1985 when a rumour has it that my concert destroyed the foundation of the stadium at Gothenburg, you know [chuckles] [cheers]. But uh... supposedly, you know, the entire audience dancing in unison to an exuberant version of "Twist And Shout", uh... we had a good time doing it but I assure you the damage was mostly unintentional and uh [chuckles], I was initially concerned that the repair bills might be taken out of my Polar Prize money but uh, Mr. Anderson has assured me that that won't be the case so [chuckles]. But uh, I've never received an award for my body of work before, I feel like a bit of a youngster for this but I thank you for your generosity and your graciousness and I promise to continue to provide you with some fun, entertainment, laughs, something to dance to, to vacuum your floor by, to make love to your baby too [chuckles], and provide you with a little company on your own trip down Thunder Road. So I'll accept this award as pat on the back for job well done in this, the early part of my career and I hope to follow in uh, Mr. Ericsson's footsteps and I'll see you when I'm 80, alright? [chuckles] [applause]... Skal! [Swedish for "Cheers!"] [chuckles].

[Bruce Springsteen performs THUNDER ROAD]

The screen door slams, Mary's dress sways
Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
Hey that's me and I want you only
Don't turn me home again
Just can't face myself alone again
Well don't you run back inside, darling you know just what I'm here for
So you're scared and you're thinking that maybe we ain't that young anymore
Show a little faith, there's magic in the night
You ain't a beauty, but hey you're alright
Oh and that's alright with me

You can hide 'neath your covers, study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers, throw roses in the rain
Waste your summer praying in vain for a savior to rise from these streets
Well I'm no hero, that's understood
All the redemption I can offer is beneath this dirty hood
With a chance to make it good somehow
Hey what else can we do now
Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair
Well the night's bustin' open, these two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back, heaven's waiting down on the tracks

Oh oh come take my hand
We're riding out tonight to case the promised land
Oh-oh oh Thunder Road, oh Thunder Road, Thunder Road
It's lying out there like a killer in the sun
Hey I know it's late, but we can make it if we run
Oh-oh oh Thunder Road, sit tight, take hold, Thunder Road

Well I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk
Well my car's out back if you're ready to take that long walk
From your front porch to my front seat
The door's open but the ride it ain't free
I know you're lonely, those words that I ain't spoken
Tonight we'll be free, all the promises will be broken
There were ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you sent away
They haunt this dusty beach road in the skeleton frames of burned-out Chevrolets
They scream your name at night in the street
Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet
And in the lonely cool before dawn
We hear their engines roaring on
But when you get to the porch they're gone on the wind, so Mary climb in
It's a town full of losers, we're pulling out of here to win

[Banquet host ???:] Ladies and gentlemen, the American ambassador to Sweden, Thomas L Sieberth.

[American ambassador Thomas L Sieberth:] Your Majesty, Stikkan Anderson, the Royal Swedish Academy. Three years ago at these prize awards, the American recipient Quincy Jones raised his glass in toast to his Swedish skal [Swedish for "cheers"] brothers and sisters. When I hear music like that, Bruce, I feel like I'm with a real American soul mate. There is a true American ambassador sitting right there [applause]. And back in the USA, Bruce's referred to as "The Boss". I have a letter here from my boss back in Washington. "Dear Bruce, I am delighted to congratulate you in receiving the 1997 Polar Music Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy Of Music. This award recognizes not only your versatility as a creative artist, but also your poetic spirit and your deep respect for the roots of your musical heritage. For more than 20 years you have been a leader in determining the direction of American rock 'n' roll. From the passionate exuberance of your early work on the New Jersey Shore, to the richly personal testament of your more recent acoustic performances, you have excelled as a songwriter, singer, guitarist, and band leader in a profession where many others would be content to do well at even one in those pursuits. As you continue to compose and perform new material, you always seem to open new doors for us, to find new expressions, timeless truth, and to help us discover the sheer joy of musical experience. I join your countless fans of all ages throughout the world in commanding you as you receive this significant musical honor. You have truly earned. Sincerely, Bill Clinton, President of United States." Thank you.


The above song lyrics are for the live 05 May 1997 performance of THUNDER ROAD at Grand Hotel in Stockholm, Sweden, during the Polar Music Prize awards ceremony. The song was played in a solo acoustic guitar and harmonica arrangement.

The Polar Music Prize

The Polar Music Prize is an international music prize awarded to individuals, groups, or institutions in recognition of their exceptional achievements in the creation and advancement of music. The prize was founded in 1989 with an endowment from publisher, lyricist, and manager of the Swedish pop music group ABBA, Stig "Stikkan" Anderson, and was named after Anderson's Polar Music recording label.

In May of each year, the award ceremony is held at the Stockholm Concert Hall where the prize is given to two recipients from any discipline of music, and is broadcast on Swedish TV. It is awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy Of Music, and is is presented to each laureate by Swedish King Karl Gustav XVI. The ceremony is followed by a celebratory banquet held at Stockholm's Grand Hotel.

The Polar Music Prize, whose purse is kronor 1 million (around U.S. $150,000), is considered one of the most prestigious music prizes in the world, and is even called the Nobel Prize of music. Since its inception in 1992, it was given to many winners from the popular music world including Sir Paul McCartney, Quincy Jones, Sir Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and Bob Dylan.

The 1995 Award Ceremony

On the eve of the final leg of The Ghost Of Tom Joad Solo Acoustic Tour, Bruce Springsteen and Swedish choral conductor Eric Ericson received the Polar Music Prize from Swedish King Karl Gustav XVI on 05 May 1997 at the Stockholm Concert Hall (Berwaldhallen) in Stockholm, Sweden. Swedish singer, songwriter, and producer Tomas Ledin read the prize committee's citation of Bruce Springsteen.

During a celebratory banquet held at Stockholm's Grand Hotel later that night, Springsteen performed a set of two solo acoustic numbers on guitar and harmonica: THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD and THUNDER ROAD. He read his acceptance speech between the two songs, and when he left the stage, American ambassador Thomas L. Sieberth read a "thank you" speech on behalf of U.S. president Bill Clinton. Both the ceremony and the following banquet were broadcast on Swedish TV.


Thanks Jake (ol'catfishinthelake at BTX and Greasy Lake) for the help in transcribing the speeches.


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Available Versions

List of available versions of THUNDER ROAD on this website:

THUNDER ROAD [Album version]
THUNDER ROAD [Early draft]
THUNDER ROAD [Alternative version #1]
THUNDER ROAD [Alternative version #2]
THUNDER ROAD [Alternative version #3]
THUNDER ROAD [Alternative version #4]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 05 Feb 1975 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 20 Jul 1975 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 17 Oct 1975 (early show) version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 18 Oct 1975 (early show) version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 18 Nov 1975 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 31 Dec 1975 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 07 Apr 1976 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 25 Mar 1977 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 13 May 1977 (early show) version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 13 Sep 1977 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 19 Sep 1978 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 08 Dec 1978 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 22 Sep 1979 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 03 Oct 1980 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 03 Jul 1981 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 08 Jun 1984 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 19 Nov 1984 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 27 Jul 1988 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 02 Sep 1988 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 16 Nov 1990 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 22 Sep 1992 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 28 Sep 1992 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 24 Jun 1993 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 15 Feb 1995 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 21 Feb 1995 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 05 Apr 1995 (Sony Music Studios) version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 09 Jul 1995 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 05 May 1997 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 22 May 1997 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 31 Jan 1998 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 23 Oct 1999 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 27 Jun 2000 / 01 Jul 2000 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 19 Oct 2001 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 29 Aug 2002 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 04 Oct 2002 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 16 Oct 2002 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 19 Feb 2003 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 29 Apr 2003 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 22 Jun 2003 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 01 Nov 2004 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 04 Apr 2005 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 12 Oct 2005 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 07 Nov 2007 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 09 Nov 2007 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 14 Mar 2008 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 07 May 2008 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 18 Jun 2008 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 23 Aug 2008 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 04 Oct 2008 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 16 Oct 2008 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 30 May 2009 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 17 Nov 2009 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 22 Nov 2009 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 04 Nov 2010 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 15 Jan 2011 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 03 Nov 2011 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 04 Nov 2011 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 14 Jan 2012 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 09 Mar 2012 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 06 Apr 2012 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Live 07 Nov 2016 version]
THUNDER ROAD [Greg Kihn's cover version]
THUNDER ROAD [Badly Drawn Boy's cover version]
THUNDER ROAD [Cowboy Junkies' cover version]
THUNDER ROAD [Kevin Rowland's cover version]

Page last updated: 25 Sep 2010