Steven Van Zandt, a.k.a. Little Steven, is one of the founding members of Bruce Springsteen’s legendary E Street Band, which he left in the early 1980s before rejoining in 1999.
Discussing his just-released memoir Unrequited Infatuations with the New York Post, the former “Sopranos” star gets candid about the falling out he had with Springsteen that caused him to leave, just before the Boss catapulted to a whole new level of stardom with the release of his 1984 mega-hit Born in the USA.
According to Van Zandt, he’d become frustrated when he felt Springsteen’s manager was undermining his role as Springsteen’s adviser.
“I just felt I was not being appreciated anymore ’cause I was always his main adviser in a way just from being his best friend, and then a new manager had come in and become his main adviser,” Van Zandt told the Post.
“I thought he’s not really paying as much attention to my advice as much as he used to. I felt like I should be part of the official management team, and he just disagreed with that ’cause I was his little brother in his eyes. So I thought, to preserve the friendship, I think the best thing to do is to leave, so that’s when I split,” he recalled.
Leaving The E Street Band, however, proved to be a disastrous move.
“It was career suicide,” he admitted. “It was more than just changing jobs — it was the end of my life. I mean, my life ended at that moment, and I had to start all over again. So it was heavy, it got very intense. It slowly dawned on me what I had done acting out of passion… We just made it, we just had our first success, and I walk away. I really felt like I’d blown my life.”
In the book, notes an excerpt in Ultimate Classic Rock, Van Zandt looks to the positives of his years away from Springsteen before rejoining the band in 1999. “I got to be in ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘Lilyhammer’. They probably never would have happened,” he said of his sideline as an actor.
“I would create two radio formats, a syndicated radio show, two channels of original content for Sirius (which has introduced over a thousand new bands that have nowhere else to go), a record company, and a music-history curriculum. Would any of that exist?” he pondered, while also observing that his absence also had some unexpected consequence, in that “it would change Bruce’s personal life for the better; that’s indisputable. He would have been on the road for two years. Would he have had the time to hook up with [wife] Patti if she hadn’t been on the road with him? Would their three wonderful kids exist if I hadn’t left?”