Although he's best known as a founding member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band and as mob consigliere Silvio Dante on TV's The Sopranos, Steven Van Zandt (aka Little Steven) has a far-ranging resume that speaks to a lifelong devotion to music, and spans the roles of guitarist, songwriter, producer, arranger, radio host, label owner, human-rights activist and educator.
Van Zandt's association with Springsteen stretches back to both men's early days of playing in little-known combos on the Jersey Shore bar scene. But he didn't officially join the E Street Band until Springsteen's third album, 1975's Born to Run, when Springsteen called his old friend in to help with horn arrangements. He quickly emerged as a major contributor to Springsteen's recordings, as guitarist, arranger and co-producer of such Springsteen classics as Darkness on the Edge of Town, The River and Born in the U.S.A.
Around the time he joined the E Street Band, Van Zandt also began working as songwriter, producer and guitarist with another act with Jersey Shore ties, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. That band's first three albums were largely a reflection of Van Zandt's vision of a brand of horn-driven contemporary R&B based in vintage styles. He expanded on that concept as leader of Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul, whose four 80s albums added a strong sociopolitical consciousness to the mix. The latter element was the focus of the Van Zandt-led all-star anti-apartheid benefit single and video "Sun City," released in 1985 under the banner of Artists United Against Apartheid, and is evident in Van Zandt's involvement in a variety of human-rights and social-justice causes.
Van Zandt left the E Street Band in 1984 to concentrate on his own music, but rejoined in the mid-90s. He's remained with Springsteen and company ever since, while following numerous other creative pursuits, musical and otherwise. He began his acting career on The Sopranos in 1999, and in 2002 launched his long-running syndicated radio show Little Steven's Underground Garage. In 2006, he launched the independent garage-rock label Wicked Cool. In 2007, Van Zandt launched the educational Rock And Roll Forever Foundation, aimed at teaching the music's history and cultural impact to a younger generation. In 2013, Van Zandt realized a longstanding dream of reuniting the original members of the legendary 60s blue-eyed-soul combo the Rascals, to perform in Once Upon A Dream, a well-received multimedia stage production that Van Zandt wrote, produced and directed.