Van Zandt

Thu, 10/14/2021 - 4:15pm

I don’t believe in luck; there’s no such thing. Period. What I do believe in is that we make our own luck by throwing down for ourselves and what our deal is. We show up for what drives us, hustle, connect some dots, and take a shot for what we want and need. In other words, we need to be ready to take the shot; there are no shortcuts. We need to do lots of work. So, we could actually say we’re worky and not lucky if we score at what we’re looking to accomplish. If we’re not out there taking some risks and making mistakes and gaining some knowledge then how can we possibly get what
we want?
A prime example of this position of mine, is the success of an iconic American writer named Samuel Langhorne Clemens, aka Mark Twain. Twain was successful because the guy got out of his comfort zone, hit the road, took risks, and over his life crunched out a prodigious amount of words. The guy was a worker of the language and happened also to be a funny guy. I admire Twain’s hustle and writing.

One of life’s little pleasures for me these days is to grab a book at Island Bound Bookstore that grabs me and won’t let me go. A book that will get in my head right from the rip and have me burning pages non-stop; a book that subjugates my mind, informs me, makes me think, and has me rereading passages as I flip through the book. If a book doesn’t grab in 10 pages then I move on to track down something else. I’m too old for ambivalence. Regarding my recent page turner, it all started with an excerpt in Rolling Stone magazine about a new memoir by Steven Van Zandt titled, “Stevie Van Zandt, Unrequited Infatuations.” Van Zandt is a household name for anyone who has ever heard of Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, and a little HBO gig called “The Sopranos.” As soon as I cracked this book, Van Zandt’s voice grabbed me like Mark Twain’s voice grabbed and continues to grab me. I liken Van Zandt’s voice on paper to Twain’s; both guys are irreverent wise-asses who are very worldly, funny and extremely bright. Moreover, they are expansive guys with strong work ethics and a take on the world that is filled with wisdom.
One of the things about this book that surprised me is that it really doesn’t matter to me that this book is about music, ladies, mobsters, Rock Stars, saloons, acting, or the beach towns of New Jersey.
What matters is the rolling and wacky story of one guy’s life, who happens to be very capable, and his relentless pursuit of his work and his destiny. This is a coming-of-age story of a kid who had no clue what he was doing with his life, until a transformative moment happened one Sunday night in 1964 when Ed Sullivan introduced The Beatles.
That night, this band of kids from Liverpool, England flipped every molecule in Van Zandt’s being and gave him a place to focus his mind, and also gave his natural and inquisitive drive the desire to deconstruct and understand what he saw on the television screen.
Ironically, at that time Van Zandt was an uber-religious kid - on the cusp of geeky - who would later morph into a hedonistic hell-raising rock and roll musician.
The irony of this guy’s story is hilarious as he explains his love of the ladies, music, gambling and mind-altering consumables. He tells us this-warts- and-all story in an unapologetic and direct voice. Niceties be damned, this guy is informing us of his truth and he isn’t flinching. Moreover, at the same time the book reveals a guy who has no problem telling us of the bad choices, foibles and folly of well lived life. A life deliberately well lived. Steven Van Zandt is an enigma and he knows it.

Van Zandt friended another outlier like himself from New Jersey by the name of Bruce Springsteen. The two scruffy likeminded misfits met in 1965 and proceeded to make their mark in the music business. The shorthand of these guys is that after years of paying their dues working their asses off as saloon players, Bruce Springsteen, Van Zandt and his posse—The E Street Band— were poised for grabbing the brass ring and going big. Then, Steven Van Zandt quits.

Yup, the gravy train is pulling into the Jersey Shore and he walks away and has to reinvent himself. Subsequently, he loses his old side guy moniker “Miami Steve,” and his fedora, then he changes his handle to “Little Steven.” Next, enter Silvio Dante and “The Sopranos,” “Lilyhamer”, “Little Steven’s Underground Garage” and “Outlaw Country” satellite radio shows, the band Little Steven and the Disciples Of Soul, and his music education initiatives. Additionally, he attempted to shut down apartheid in South Africa. Van Zandt is a busy guy, a worky guy, who has had a hell of a run making sense out of his life’s deal. The guy is unstoppable and his memoir goes deep with how all of the aforementioned played out.

Steven Van Zandt’s self-deprecation is spilling off the pages of this book and this is likeable stuff. Furthermore he has a solid wife by his side who augments his artistic vision. His wife Maureen Van Zandt (Santoro), an accomplished actress and an intuitive, and creative heartbeat is without question a major part of his success.
“Stevie Van Zandt, Unrequited Infatuations,” is a boots-on-the-ground mash-up of the complex nature of the music industry, and the artists who grease the wheels of its machinations. Finally, my take on this very fast-paced, and readable book is that Van Zandt’s experience lends an evocative sociological context for an art form that is a vital part of modern culture. Hail hail rock and roll! ‘Nuff said.