Steven Van Zandt
Musician, songwriter, actor, producer
Born: November 22, 1950, in Winthrop, Massachusetts
Grew up in: Middletown Township, New Jersey
New Jersey Hall of Fame, Class of 2017: Performing Arts

It’s tempting to say Steven Van Zandt wears many hats, but given his trademark headscarf, that doesn’t quite fit. Instead, let’s try this idiomatic twist: Van Zandt is a jack of all trades and a master of many.

Born Steven Lento, Van Zandt took the last name of his stepfather, who, seeming to sense his new son’s predestination, moved the family to New Jersey. Van Zandt grew into a long-haired, Beatles-loving teen and formed his first rock band at the age of 14. As a teen, he was involved in a car accident that left him with scars on his head. Hence, his penchant for hats and eventually, his headscarf.

Van Zandt’s fate was sealed in 1965 when he met Bruce Springsteen. They played together in several early Springsteen bands and began making names for themselves on the Jersey Shore music scene. When Van Zandt took to wearing Hawaiian shirts in the winter, he earned another name: Miami Steve.

In 1975, Van Zandt helped form Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, working alongside Johnny Lyon as co-leader, guitarist, songwriter, arranger and producer. The same year, Van Zandt became an official member of Springsteen’s E Street Band, just in time for the “Born to Run” tour.

Van Zandt remained an essential part of the E Street Band through 1984, often sharing vocals and the spotlight with Springsteen. At Van Zandt’s New Jersey Hall of Fame induction, Springsteen described his friend as “my irreplaceable lieutenant.” Over the decades, Van Zandt would rejoin Springsteen for various tours and recording projects.

All the while, Van Zandt was building his reputation as a songwriter, arranger and producer. Most notably, he wrote Southside Johnny’s signature song, “I Don’t Want to Go Home” and produced the band’s acclaimed “Hearts of Stone” album. In 1981, he launched his own band, Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul, releasing a series of R&B-inspired, socially conscious albums. Increasingly interested in political issues, Van Zandt created Artists United Against Apartheid in 1985. It became a vehicle for major artists to demonstrate their opposition to segregation in South Africa.

Van Zandt had no professional acting experience, but in 1999 landed the role of Silvio Dante in HBO’s “The Sopranos.” TV audiences came to know a new Steven Van Zandt, this one a perennially cool mobster and strip-club owner with big hair and no headscarf. Once legitimized as an acting talent, Van Zandt landed other parts and starting in 2012, executive produced, co-wrote and starred in the Netflix series “Lilyhammer.”

Van Zandt’s other projects include the satellite radio channel and syndicated radio program Little Steven’s Underground Garage; a record label, Wicked Cool Records; and the non-profit Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, which creates no-fee music curriculum for schools around the country. He remains active for political causes and in 2021 authored a memoir, “Unrequited Infatuations.”

Intro/Acceptance Video