Why Steven Van Zandt Had to ‘Bring Bad News’ to Bruce Springsteen
The E Street Band guitarist cited the example of having to be honest about the Boss’ 1987 track “Ain’t Got You” from Tunnel of Love, an album written while he was dealing with the collapse of his marriage and other life changes.
“Part of the obligation of being a best friend is that sometimes you have to bring the bad news, to express an opinion that they’re not going to like,” Van Zandt told the Times in a new interview. “With success like Bruce had in the ‘80s, you cannot help but lose perspective. You start thinking you’re a genius, the greatest thing in the world, and who’s gonna argue with you? The mindset is: ‘’Did you just sell 20 million albums?’ I was the only guy who wasn’t scared of Bruce, so I could tell him what I thought.”
He continued: "We had been separate for a while at that point and he was trying to adjust from being this ridiculously successful guy, after coming from nothing. He was trying to be honest about his situation in that song, but sometimes you can be too honest. Bruce’s talent is explaining to people their lives, and giving insight and perspective to the listener. I had to say to him: ‘Nobody cares about your life. Nobody wants to hear about how rich you are’.”
But Van Zandt emphasized that there was more good than bad in their relationship, which began in the ‘60s. “We’ve been around a long time and the band chemistry is a miraculous thing that should not be taken for granted,” he said. “Besides, I think Bruce likes having someone from the old neighborhood. It keeps him grounded.”
Listen to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Ain’t Got You’