Steven Van Zandt Opens Up About Friendship with Bruce Springsteen and E Street Band

In many ways, Steven Van Zandt is the ultimate wingman. Both Bruce Springsteen’s best friend and second-in-command of the E Street band, Van Zandt recently opened up about his long and varied career.

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In an interview with 60 Minutes, Van Zandt admitted he doesn’t enjoy the limelight and is happy to let Springsteen take center stage. But that didn’t stop the media outlet from highlighting Van Zandt’s contributions to the band’s success over the past 50 years.

Van Zandt said during the interview, “I’m not crazy about the spotlight, I could have been, and maybe I should have been, okay? ‘Cause, again, I– you realize that has big advantages. But, naturally, I just wasn’t into it. I, you know, I’d rather be standing next to the guy. Let him be in the spotlight, let him take the heat. Cause I like to blend in actually, you know.”

Van Zandt has performed with Springsteen and the E Street Band for 50 years, going back to when they were getting their start playing bars in New Jersey.

For the most part, Van Zandt and Springsteen have managed to avoid the trappings that some bands find themselves in. The two appear to be thick as thieves, avoiding any long-term rifts. Although there was a brief period in the 1980s when Van Zandt stepped away, the two musicians buried the hatchet and were performing together again by the ’90s.

Far more than just back up to Springsteen, Van Zandt has contributed to musical arrangement, adding horns on “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” for instance. He also helped Springsteen find the right guitar notes on “Born to Run.”

When asked during the interview about what he’s gained from the music business that he couldn’t have foreseen at the start, he responded, “It saved my life. I mean, I didn’t have any path forward. And so it brings you acceptance. You’re part of something. And man, it just came along right at the right time. You’re makin’ a living playing rock ‘n’ roll, man. That was the miracle.”

Of the partnership, Springsteen said, “Steve is the consigliere of the E Street Band. If I have questions pertaining a direction for the band, or issues with the band, or something like the setlist, I’m not sure what we’re gonna play that night, or what we should start with, or if he has second doubts about something, he always comes to me. “

The spotlight on Van Zandt appears to have been filmed prior to Springsteen’s recent health issues (the singer has peptic ulcer disease) with the E Street Band taking 2023 off to let Springsteen recover. But, it’s safe to say that when the band does tour again, Van Zandt will be by Springsteen’s side.

Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

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