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Fame & Fortune
Steven Van Zandt
Steven Van Zandt
Satellite radio builds on Springsteen, 'Sopranos' successes
Celebrity interview

Fame & Fortune: Steven Van Zandt

Make no mistake: Rocker-turned-actor Steven Van Zandt is no longer in high school.

Now 56 years old, wealthy and world-famous as the guitarist you've seen jamming back-to-back with superstar Bruce Springsteen, he's also won TV fame on "The Sopranos" as Tony Soprano's consigliere Silvio Dante. And even before all that, his high school made it official by expelling him for a dangerous combination of long hair and underwhelming grades.

That was the 1960s and that decade's rebel spirit seems to have possessed him ever since.

Van Zandt admits he has one thing in common with his Bada Bing strip-club-owning "Sopranos" character: "We are both permanently stuck in previous eras. Silvio is stuck in the '50s and I'm stuck in the '60s."

It was the Beatles who first inspired Van Zandt to pick up an electric guitar. Not long after that he found himself part of a burgeoning music scene on the Jersey Shore. He befriended Springsteen and joined the now famous E Street Band shortly before the 1975 release of the rock classic "Born to Run." He was there to see the band's star rise, but quit prior to the megasuccess of 1984's "Born in the USA." Ironically, it was the very success of the E Street Band that led Van Zandt to leave -- but not due to any musical disputes. He became politically active, speaking out against America's involvement in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Central Africa.

Both music and politics took a back seat in 1999, however, after an encounter with writer David Chase, who launched HBO's Jersey-based mob series "The Sopranos." Chase and his wife, Maureen, who plays Van Zandt's "Sopranos" spouse, live in Manhattan, where Van Zandt has ventured into syndicated radio shows. The venture has proved so successful that Van Zandt recently expanded into his own around-the-clock station, "Underground Garage," on Sirius satellite radio. With "The Sopranos" coming to an end, here's what Van Zandt has to say on his TV, radio and musical successes.

Bankrate: There's a parallel between Tony Soprano and Silvio and Bruce Springsteen and you -- loyalty, trust, communication.

Steve Van Zandt: Oh, yeah. There are a lot of similarities in those relationships. In both cases we grew up together, and in both cases, I am the trusted lieutenant -- or certainly was in the old days of the E Street Band. So, yes, there is a similar relationship.

Bankrate: Can you say anything about the last episodes of "The Sopranos"?

Steve Van Zandt: No (laughs). We can just say there are going to be a lot of surprises. I can say I think it's one of our best years. A lot of different twists and turns, and the writing continues to be terrific.

Next: "I'm very happy to be stuck in the '60s."
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