10 Reasons Steven Van Zandt Is A True NJ Hall Of Famer
When it was announced that Middletown native Stevie Van Zandt was part of the Class of 2018 for the New Jersey Hall of Fame, I was shocked. Shocked that he wasn’t already in the place!
He’s not only a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame since 2014 (inducted with the E Street Band), he’s also one of the people who decides who gets into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The New Jersey Hall of Fame induction ceremony is Sunday night at Convention Hall in Asbury Park.
So, from the home away from home office in Toms River, here’s a Top 10 List of sorts, in no particular order.
**Naturally, his radio home for the Underground Garage at the Jersey Shore is 105.7 The Hawk. It runs on Sunday nights at 9, and has been a staple on the station for more than a decade. The show began in 2003 and is an eclectic mix of old and new—with all it cool. The syndicated show led to the satellite radio channel of the same name, which opened the door for the Outlaw Country channel.
**His musical knowledge is encyclopedic. He’s a historian and a purist and a rebel. Talking music with him is like grad school on steroids. You better have game.
**He’s got many more handles/names than the average person. To wit: Steven, Steve (C’mon Steve!!), Stevie, Miami Steve, Sugar Miami Steve, Little Steven. On the acting side, there’s, of course, Silvio, not to mention Frank “The Fixer.”
**Speaking of the small screen, was there ever a better foil/consigliere for a Jersey mob family than his Silvio Dante on The Sopranos? No way. The story of David Chase tracking him down after watching him induct The Rascals into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is legend. Oh, and—nice first acting gig. The timing of the show’s debut and the return of Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band to the concert stage was karmic awesomeness. Bonus—since The Reunion Tour you’re likely to spot any number of Sopranos cast members at shows. Both E Street shows and Stevie’s latest run.
When Lilyhammer debuted in Norway in January 2012, one fifth of the population was watching. Mr. Van Zandt commuted back and forth from Norway during the show’s three year run. All while programming, etc the radio shows and channels. And playing with the E Street Band.
And then there’s Lilyhammer and Netflix. The first show that was set up as “exclusive content” on Netflix was none other than Lilyhammer. There’ve been plenty of amazing shows on that channel over the course of the past six years, but Lilyhammer will always be first.
**Speaking of first—the first three albums by Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes remain essential pieces of the Jersey Shore music scene mosaic. I also have to include 1991’s Better Days. Produced by Stevie, I Don’t Want To Go Home, This Time It’s For Real and Hearts Of Stone established a band and a sound. Many of the best songs from these albums were written by SVZ. Impossible to overlook Bruce Springsteen’s great contributions to these records. There are days that I think “Trapped Again” is the greatest song I’ve ever heard. That part at the end where Southside & Stevie snarl back and forth over the raging music track still stops me in my tracks 40 years later. 40??
With Better Days all the principals were reunited (and it felt soooo damn good) and Stevie’s “It’s Been A Long Time” became an instant classic.
Anyway, “This Time It’s For Real” may well be the song that defines the classic sound of the Jersey Shore. Architect? Steve Van Zandt.
**Then there’s Little Steven’s first “solo” album Men Without Women in 1982, as the Disciples Of Soul were born. Blessed with the studio chops of his pals from E Street and the mighty Miami Horns, the album expanded on the sound that had been developed on the first three Southside albums, with SVZ out front and singing lead. “Forever” was the first single and introduction to an album filled with great songs and tons of attitude. They toured and play a slew of incendiary shows, including three at Big Man’s West in Red Bank that November and December. They opened for The Who at the stadium in Cleveland. They were better than great. Economic reality stepped in, as did global politics and Steve took things in a different direction.
**Speaking of: Sun City! Ever changed the world? Mr. Van Zandt did in 1985 with the release of the “Sun City” single and subsequent album by Artists United Against Apartheid. The cultural boycott of the casino in South Africa ( I AIN’T GONNA PLAY SUN CITY) led to an economic boycott and ultimately apartheid crumbled and Nelson Mandela was released from jail and became president and a song literally helped change the world. Stevie Van Zandt did that. Learned more from a three minute record? You bet.
**All the work with Gary U.S. Bonds and Darlene Love and many more and all of the artists who are on his Wicked Cool record label. You could write a whole book about just those exploits.
**Soulfire the album and tour. Who goes on the road with a 15-piece band in 2017/18? The one and only Little Steven with the reconstituted Disciples of Soul. The album was a welcome return to the rockin’ soul sound that by the 21st century had been perfected. Speaking of perfected, everything that SVZ had learned in the studio over the past 20 years went into the crafting of this brilliant album. As he put it when he was on the Bruce Brunch, “…it’s basically me covering me.” And there you go. There can’t be a better live band on the road right now. Can’t be. If I could, I’d go to every show they play.
**TeachRock is the program that he’s developed to put music and the culture of into school’s curriculums. Teachers are admitted to the shows on this tour for free and there are workshops along the way. This man is serious. It’s a spin off of his Rock & Roll Forever Foundation, which dates back to 2007.
**Since 1999 and the Reunion Tour, he’s taken his customary place just to the left of Bruce Springsteen on concert stages all over the world. All due respect, it was never quite the same for me when he wasn’t part of the band, and the night of his surprise appearance at the Meadowlands in 1984 is still one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen and experienced. So sweet to have that show as a part of the archive collection. Bruce Springsteen AND The E Street Band. That is the magic.
**He’s been married to his amazing partner Maureen since 1982. Nuff said!
Stevie has been a great friend to all of us at The Hawk, and especially the Bruce Brunch. Any time that he’s on the show is a career highlight. They are treasured moments and make for great radio.
NJ Hall of Fame? Little Steven Van Zandt? Right on Right on!!