10 Things You Didn’t Know About Steve Van Zandt
Most people know Steve Van Zandt as Bruce Springsteen’s longtime friend and guitar player. But the man born Steven Lento and known as both “Little Steven” and “Miami Steve” is as close to a Renaissance man as you can find in rock, with his time in the E Street Band just one of his many projects. In order to best keep track of them all, we give you 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Steve Van Zandt.
10. He owns the Bada Bing.
In 1999, Van Zandt was hired to play the role of Silvio Dante, the consigliere and strip-club owner on ‘The Sopranos,’ despite having had no previous acting experience. In 2012, he signed on to star as Frank “The Fixer” Tagliano in ‘Lillyhammer,’ a show on Norwegian television about a mobster hiding out in Norway. The show is available on Netflix.
9. He spends a lot of time in his garage.
In 2002, he started ‘Little Steven’s Underground Garage,’ a syndicated radio show dedicated to finding the best in three-chords-and-a-cloud-of-dust rock of the past and present. He also programs and runs the Underground Garage channel on SiriusXM satellite radio.
8. The man is literally wicked cool.
The success of ‘Little Steven’s Underground Garage’ led to the creation of Wicked Cool Records in 2005. The label has put out albums by modern-day garage rockers like the Chesterfield Kings and the Cocktail Slippers, and compilations of songs that win the weekly the Coolest Song in the World segment on his radio show.
7. He arranged the horns on ’Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.’
Even though he wasn’t in the E Street band at the time, Van Zandt stopped by the studio during the sessions for ‘Born to Run’ and made an immediate contribution. On the spot, he came up with the horn part for one of the album’s most popular songs, and joined the group on its subsequent tour.
6. He spent lots of time on the South Side.
Despite a busy tour schedule, Van Zandt found time to produce the first three albums by blue-eyed soul singer Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes in the mid-to-late ’70s. He wrote (or co-wrote with Springsteen) many of their best-known songs from those albums, including ‘I Don’t Want to Go Home, ‘Love on the Wrong Side of Town’ and ‘This Time It’s for Real.’ He and Springsteen also co-produced soul great Gary “U.S.” Bonds’ 1981 comeback album, ‘Dedication,’ which had a hit with Springsteen’s ‘This Little Girl.’
5. But he produces more than just music.
In the past few years, Van Zandt has branched out into the movies and theater. In 2012, he created an acclaimed Broadway show called ‘The Rascals: Once Upon a Dream’ in which ’60s hitmakers the Rascals gave their first public performances in 40 years. A year later, he reunited with ‘Sopranos’ creator David Chase to serve as executive producer and music supervisor of ‘Not Fade Away,’ a movie about a garage-rock band in mid-’60s New Jersey.
4. He ain’t gonna play Sun City.
Van Zandt left the E Street Band in 1984 to pursue a solo career, which featured many songs that reflected his political views. A year later he brought together many rock, jazz, pop and hip-hop stars to record the Top 40 hit ‘Sun City,’ which protested apartheid in South Africa.
3. There’s another reason for the bandannas.
As a teenager, Van Zandt was involved in a car accident in which he was thrown through the windshield. The damage to his scalp made it impossible for hair to grow back in certain places. After wearing hats for years, he switched to babushkas, and they’ve been his trademark fashion statement ever since.
2. He’s a philanthropist working to get music back in schools.
In 2007, he founded the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, a nonprofit organization that teaches the history of rock, not just as an art form but as a way of understanding U.S. history. The program began its initial roll-out in the fall of 2013. Springsteen, Bono, Jackson Browne and director Martin Scorcese serve on the foundation’s board.
1. Little Richard officiated his wedding.
What better way to prove that rock ‘n’ roll is your religion than to be married by its original High Priest and rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Little Richard? Van Zandt married the former Maureen Santoro — who also portrayed Silvio’s wife on ‘The Sopranos’ — on New Years Eve 1982, with Springsteen serving as best man and Percy Sledge singing ‘When a Man Loves a Woman.’