"Steven Van Zandt is the nation's premier priest of garage rock, spreading the gospel of no-frills, fist-pumping rock roll."
-Entertainment Weekly, 2006
On April 7, 2002, coincidentally (or not?) the same date in 1967 that Tom Donahue kicked off "progressive FM radio" on KMPX in San Francisco, Little Steven's Underground Garage had its inaugural broadcast on 23 stations throughout the United States. Respected MTV VJ Kurt Loder said called Van Zandt, "the coolest DJ in the country, a proud throwback to the late-night hipster jocks of long-gone 1960s and '70s FM radio."
But being the coolest D.J. in the country is just one chapter in a long and distinguished musical career.
He is an acclaimed record producer for artists such as Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Artists United Against Apartheid, Darlene Love, Lone Justice, Gary U.S. Bonds, Michael Monroe, Lords of the New Church, the Arc Angels, the Charms, Tina Sugandh, Davie Allan and the Arrows, Jean Beauvoir, and the Chesterfield Kings.
A gifted songwriter, he has written songs for artists including Jimmy Cliff, Southside Johnny, Gary U.S. Bonds, Brian Setzer, and Darlene Love. His material has been performed by artists as diverse as Jackson Browne, U2, Black Uhuru, and Eddie Vedder.
In addition, Steven is a well-known musician in his own right, performing as a founding member of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul, and the Lost Boys.
In his early years as a musician, arranger, and producer he helped to craft what is now known as the Asbury Park Sound - horn-driven, hard-edged, soul-based rock music - forever legitimizing the genre of "bar band music." After leaving the E Street Band in 1982, he spent the 80's immersed in international politics, wrote five albums, toured internationally with his own band, and tirelessly educated rock fans about various political issues in over 1000 in-depth interviews.
He has worked to further human rights since the early 1980's, spearheading the hugely successful anti-apartheid Sun City project, and establishing the Solidarity Foundation in 1985 to support the sovereignty of indigenous peoples. He has been honored twice by the United Nations for his human rights achievements, and received the International Documentary Association Award for his film The Making of Sun City.
Hearts of Stone by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, produced (and mostly written) by Steven, was named in 1990 by Rolling Stone as one of the top 100 albums of the past twenty years, and Rolling Stone called Sun City one of the best 100 albums of the 1980's.
In 1999 Steven added acting to his mercurial career. He played Silvio Dante in HBO's critically acclaimed dramatic series, The Sopranos. The series received numerous awards and honors. Stephen Holden said in The New York Times "it may just be the greatest work of American popular culture of the last quarter century."
Steven joined his old friend Bruce Springsteen for a record-breaking international tour with the E Street Band to promote the hugely successful album, The Rising, during 2002 and 2003. Subsequently he toured behind following Springsteen albums Magic (2007) and Working On A Dream (2009).
His fifth solo album (and the final work in a cycle conceived back in 1982) Born Again Savage combined the topics of sex, politics, and religion in a hard rock setting, and was released by Steven in 1999 on his own label, Renegade Nation.
In 2000 Steven contributed the song "Affection" to the second Sopranos soundtrack CD, Peppers & Eggs, from the unreleased album, Nobody Loves And Leaves Alive, performed by his 90's garage band, The Lost Boys.
Little Steven's Underground Garage, the two-hour syndicated radio show, continues to garner rave reviews from journalists and listeners alike. The program, which launched with 23 affiliates, and now airs on more than 140 stations in North America covering 200 markets, as well as 45 countries around the world including Oslo, Padova/Venice, Rome, Stockholm, Holland, Denmark and Spain. In 2008, the Underground Garage was broadcast for the first time to 17 military bases in 9 countries via the American Forces Network. In 2009, on the anniversary of the Beatles appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, LSUG began broadcasting in the UK on Absolute Radio.
"I wanted to create a sanctuary of sanity - and have some fun at the same time. Because there's got to be a place where greatness is recognized, remembered, and rewarded. The alternative is to continue to live in a cultural asylum catering to a lowest common denominator thinking it's artistic paradise," states Van Zandt.
Little Steven joined Sirius Satellite Radio as Creative Consultant in 2004, creating a 24-hour Underground Garage format that launched in July. He is also the Executive Producer of Outlaw Country, a new 24-hour format that provides sanctuary for the rebels and renegades of country and rock and roll on Sirius.
Van Zandt served as Film Music Supervisor and Soundtrack Executive Producer for Christmas With The Kranks released in 2004 by Sony Pictures. The film, based on John Grisham's novel "Skipping Christmas," stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Tim Allen, and Dan Akroyd.
During the Spring of '04, Dunkin' Donuts sponsored a national search for an unsigned band that would win the chance to perform at the International Underground Garage Festival. 965 bands entered local competitions held in nine cities. The finals took place at Irving Plaza in New York City in July. MTV Networks broadcast a TV special based on the contest in August.
Little Steven's Renegade Circus Productions presented the most acclaimed rock concert of 2004, Little Steven's International Underground Garage Festival. Held on August 14 at Randalls Island, New York City, the Festival featured 43 bands including Iggy Pop and the Stooges, the Strokes, and the reunited New York Dolls. Rolling Stone Magazine gave the Festival four stars in its full-page review and Entertainment Weekly called it "an awe-inspiring spectacle."
In December 2006 Little Steven launched his own record label, Wicked Cool Records. With international distribution by RED, Van Zandt releases various compilations including an installment of Coolest Songs In The World; plus new releases from Underground Garage favorites the Charms, the Chesterfield Kings and the Cocktail Slippers and more. He also launched Lost Cathedral is a subsidiary label of Wicked Cool Records and home to the band Crown of Thorns.
Although Van Zandt is currently focusing on artist development for Wicked Cool (an area he says the record biz is dangerously ignoring), he's also preparing the first initiative for his Rock and Roll Forever Foundation. Little Steven's Rock and Roll High School is targeted to highlight the impact that Rock and Roll music had on historic events in this country and around the world with a curriculum for middle and high-schools.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times