Five things we learned from E Street Band legend Steven Van Zandt

The veteran rocker revealed everything from conquering apartheid to turning actor for The Sopranos in his Letter To My Younger Self

Steven Van Zandt has been thrilling audiences by backing up The Boss since 1972.

So the E Street Band legend, 67, had one or two things to say as he went face-to-face with 16-year-old in his Letter To My Younger Self.

Read the full interview with Steven Van Zandt here

Stepping out of the shadow of frontman Bruce Springsteen – here are five things we learned from Van Zandt.

He found himself Out in the Street for having long hair

Van Zandt‘s parents split up as a child with his mother re-marrying when Little Steven was aged just seven. The Dutchman who become his father figure had a better relationship with the budding rock star, except for one detail – his long hair.

“He didn’t like it when I grew my hair long, which was unacceptable then,” he revealed. “I got thrown out of school, then I got thrown out of my house. I was a hippie guitar player – for my parents that was one step from being a criminal. In fact, they might have preferred me to be a criminal because that would have been steady work.”

He had Ties That Bind-ed him to religion until he saw Mick Jagger

Born a Catholic before becoming a Baptist following his mum’s second wedding, Van Zandt was more likely to be spotted at Easter Sunrise service than in a rock crowd. Enter the un-smiling face of The Rolling Stones.

Van Zandt said: “Mick Jagger was the first pop star I ever saw who didn’t smile. It sounds a small thing, but it wasn’t to me. Because it said to me this isn’t just showbiz. This is about your life. I saw Jagger and I thought, ‘oh my God, I want some of that’.


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3. The sex, drugs and rock’n’roll lifestyle wasn’t entirely for him in his Glory Days

The nihilistic excesses of rock stars in the Seventies are the stuff of legend – just look at tales of Keith Moon from The Who or Led Zepelin’s notorious party animal antics. Van Zandt was tarred by the same brush – even a policeman planted drugs on him – so tried to live up to the tag, briefly.

“I did about three LSD trips, all of which were very intense,” Van Zandt said. “But experimentation with hallucinogenic drugs was brief. I gained a lot of wisdom – you can get enlightened pretty quickly on one pill. Then after six months I stopped taking drugs and I never took them again.”

4. Despite being Born in the U.S.A, he made a splash in South Africa

Van Zandt’s career has not just been about the E Street Band – he dramatically quit the group in 1984.

A year later, he penned Sun City which inspired helping pivotal cultural boycott of South Africa and dealt a blow to apartheid.

He said: “People like Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine) have said that’s why they got into politics. It wasn’t good for my career though. I was pretty much banned from the music industry.”

5. He may have been Born to Run but David Chase still pursued him for The Sopranos

The opportunity to switch from the screen to the stage came out of the blue for Van Zandt.

One call from Sopranos creator David Chase was enough as the rocker took on the role of deadly mob consigliere and strip club owner Silvio Dante in HBO’s mafioso masterpiece.

“He [Chase] liked something about me. He called me and said, ‘do you want to be in my new TV show?’. I said, ‘thank you, no, I’m not an actor’. He said, ‘yes you are, you just don’t know it’. I had nothing else going on so I thought, ‘what the hell?’. So boom, I became an actor overnight.”