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Uncover never-before-told stories in this epic tale of self-discovery by a Rock n Roll disciple and member of the E Street Band.
What story begins in a bedroom in suburban New Jersey in the early '60s, unfolds on some of the country's largest stages, and then ranges across the globe, demonstrating over and over again how Rock and Roll has the power to change the world for the better? This story.
The first true heartbeat of Unrequited Infatuations is the moment when Stevie Van Zandt trades in his devotion to the Baptist religion for an obsession with Rock and Roll. Groups like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones created new ideas of community, creative risk, and principled rebellion. They changed him forever. While still a teenager, he met Bruce Springsteen, a like-minded outcast/true believer who became one of his most important friends and bandmates. As Miami Steve, Van Zandt anchored the E Street Band as they conquered the Rock and Roll world.
And then, in the early '80s, Van Zandt stepped away from E Street to embark on his own odyssey. He refashioned himself as Little Steven, a political songwriter and performer, fell in love with Maureen Santoro who greatly expanded his artistic palette, and visited the world's hot spots as an artist/journalist to not just better understand them, but to help change them. Most famously, he masterminded the recording of "Sun City," an anti-apartheid anthem that sped the demise of South Africa's institutionalized racism and helped get Nelson Mandela out of prison.
By the '90s, Van Zandt had lived at least two lives—one as a mainstream rocker, one as a hardcore activist. It was time for a third. David Chase invited Van Zandt to be a part of his new television show, the Sopranos—as Silvio Dante, he was the unconditionally loyal consiglieri who sat at the right hand of Tony Soprano (a relationship that oddly mirrored his real-life relationship with Bruce Springsteen).
Underlying all of Van Zandt's various incarnations was a devotion to preserving the centrality of the arts, especially the endangered species of Rock. In the twenty-first century, Van Zandt founded a groundbreaking radio show (Little Steven's Underground Garage), created the first two 24/7 branded music channels on SiriusXM (Underground Garage and Outlaw Country), started a fiercely independent record label (Wicked Cool), and developed a curriculum to teach students of all ages through the medium of music history. He also rejoined the E Street Band for what has now been a twenty-year victory lap.
Unrequited Infatuations chronicles the twists and turns of Stevie Van Zandt's always surprising life. It is more than just the testimony of a globe-trotting nomad, more than the story of a groundbreaking activist, more than the odyssey of a spiritual seeker, and more than a master class in rock and roll (not to mention a dozen other crafts). It's the best book of its kind because it's the only book of its kind.
**Instant International Bestseller, New York Times Bestseller, USA Today Bestseller, Wall Street Journal Bestseller, Los Angeles Times Bestseller, Publishers Weekly Bestseller**
The distant music speeds up and slows down like vinyl on a warped turntable, holding, then yielding to the wind’s caress, as the soft tinkle of breaking glass and tired car horns recede into the mysterious absence of light that becomes the exotic toxic wasteland beyond the city line, and the echoes of drunken revelry pass through their nightly metamorphosis, transformed on our soundtrack into the leaves softly rustling on the terrace, where on this particularly chilly December night in Greenwich Village our hero contemplates his fate.
It’s a vagrant winter and you can’t sell consciousness.
Nobody’s buying it.
Hell, you can’t even give it away!
Is what I’m hearing the icy wind blowing through the dead grey streets? Or are those echoes the sound of ridicule?
Once upon a time, consciousness was hard to come by, and nobody was buying it then either.
Information was rationed out by the clergy, witch doctors, power-drunk elders. People we foolishly trusted to do the understanding and interpret life for us.
Every hundred years or so, somebody would have a revelation and try to share it. They would usually be excommunicated, confined to asylums, or burned at the stake by our grateful society.
Who dug the Buddha when he was around? A bunch of poor homeless acolytes who hoped to someday actually understand what the hell the pleasantly plump man was talking about?
Who’d Jesus have? A dozen guys and an ex-hooker or two?
Socrates and Robert Johnson both got the same reward for their insights. A final toast from the Loving Cup.
No, my friend, you better come with something better to sell than truth.
Something we can use.
Like war, taxes, government, long tiring meaningless work, the phony scorecard of Wall Street, sexual frustration, suffering, false hope, disease, guns, drugs, gasoline, agribusiness, fear, booze, poison, hatred. Give us someone to blame. Fill the vacuum of our spiritual bankruptcy with religion.
We’ll buy any and all of that. Speak to us condescendingly as children so we understand. There’s a pandemic of stupidity, so no one will notice.
We will follow you anywhere.
Parents, teachers, priests, doctors, politicians, philosophers, poets, artists, gods, Lord Almighty, Holy Spirit, are your obligations so diminished?
Your offspring need suckling and you are busy doing what?
December’s Children are orphans.
It’s a vagrant winter and you can’t sell consciousness.
He was under a blanket in the back of the car on the floor in the crazy spooky silence.
Nobody spoke. No radio. Just the lazy hum of the motor, and him alone with his thoughts. And ooh daddio, that was not his favorite thing.
His two coconspirators were sneaking him past the military blockade into the black township of Soweto. The “native unrest,” as the government liked to call it, erupted every few years, but lately it had become more frequent, and now, constant.
Not coincidentally, the police had become less dependable. They had mixed feelings about beating their own family members and neighbors at demonstrations or turning their backs as people they knew ended up tortured and occasionally murdered in prison.
The government, no longer able to trust the police, had in an unprecedented move brought in the military. They were stationed at every checkpoint in and out of the massive ghetto. Not to protect the inhabitants, but to keep them contained for more convenient slaughter once constructive engagement gave way and the bloodshed levee broke. Tension was at an all-time high. It was no time to be the wrong color in the wrong place. Hence the under-the-blanket thing.
The seemingly endless township had no electricity, so a thick fog of fuel oil and coal smoke hung four feet off the ground, making the mystery and sense of imminent danger even more pronounced. It felt like a Twilight Zone ride at a Dostoevsky Disneyland. Or a Star Trek landing party where he was the expendable crew guy in the wrong uniform. In this case the wrong uniform was his white skin, dig?
Every country smelled different. In South Africa, the sweet scent of the jacaranda, cane, and banana trees was cut by an occasional breeze that carried traces of an acrid stench, a mix of burning rubber and human flesh that came from tires filled with gasoline, forced on perceived traitors, and lit as a means of execution.
They called it necklacing.
There was also, in the combination of the intoxicating beauty and smoldering hatred, the distinctive scent of revolution. And he loved every scary crazy exhilarating minute of it, baby.
A final showdown was coming and he had a ringside seat.
He was on his way to a very secret and very illegal meeting with the most violent sect of the South African Revolution, the Azanian People’s Organization (AZAPO). The plan was to learn how they thought and hopefully gain their endorsement for the strategy he’d come up with to aid their liberation.
In 1984 South Africa, it was illegal for three black men to congregate in the same place at the same time. Illegal for anyone to suggest support for the cultural boycott, especially Blacks (as they were legally designated). And a capital crime to have a gun or to consort with anyone who did.
He was about to violate all of the above.
AZAPO were frontline soldiers, heroes to the struggling masses, terrorists in the eyes of the government.
What he hadn’t planned on was that in one hour’s time he’d not only be criticizing their strategy for revolution, but making the case for why they should let him live.
How the fuck did a half-a-hippie guitar player get here?
For seven glorious years, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band were Rock and Roll’s Rat Pack, and he happily and naturally played the Dean Martin role.
If you were even thinking of throwing a party, you called him. That was the extent of his politics. He was the fun guy. The court jester. Always good for a laugh. Sex, booze, drugs, Rock and Roll, and… more sex. Yo bartender, another round for the house!
A whole lot had to go sideways to find him under that blanket.
And yet it was all perfectly logical that a Rock and Roller from New Jersey would be risking imprisonment and death. Logical to his new mind. New mind because he had become a different guy.
He’d worked night and day with the E Street Band, proudly contributing to making them the biggest and best in the world. Then, in a moment of clarity (or insanity, take your pick), he had left the band to discover who he was and how the world worked. It was now or never, he knew. Once you take that road to being rich, there ain’t no going back. The rich had too much to lose. He chose to take the adventure instead of the money.
What a putz.
Early on in his crazy new journey, he’d made a surprising discovery. He’d found that with proper research he could analyze and find a solution to virtually any political problem, no matter how complicated. Of course, implementing the solution was another matter entirely, but all he was trying to do was collect research to write some songs. At least at first.
He had always known that he had the talent of improving things when it came to art. A song, an arrangement, a lyric, a production. You name it. For years, for others, he had made bad into good, good into great, and great into greater.
It wasn’t all roses, by any means.
Even in art, this ability to fix and improve things was both a gift and a curse.
The gift part was obvious.
The curse was twofold. For starters, most people didn’t want advice, no matter what they said. They wanted to think they could figure things out themselves. Sometimes they pretended to listen and then ignored the advice. It was also a tough way to make a living, in that it depended on others driving the wagon while he kept the wheels greased, occasionally leaping off to make repairs.
And then there was the biggest drag, which was that he had never been able to apply this beautiful logic to his own life. The frustrations of business constantly drew him away from the pleasures of Art. No matter how he fought it, the delusional devil down inside him was still waiting for that magical, mystical patron who should have shown up by now if they were coming at all.
When he found out that his ability extended beyond art, that it carried into the real world, it came as quite a shock. He considered himself half a moron who had barely managed to finish high school. Not to mention his mind’s normal state, which, when not actively doing something, was a chaotic combination of frustration, impatience, self-hatred, or preoccupation with artistic and philosophical puzzles.
That’s why artists became artists, wasn’t it? To make order out of the chaos? To impose a rationale on the irrational? To answer the unanswerable questions? To create a structure that provided shelter from the contradictory tornados that constantly ravage the mind? Or was it all revenge? Best not go there, he thought. It risked emotional indulgence.
But this new insight, this awareness that he could focus his talent on the larger problems of the world, taught him that his destiny, at least for the foreseeable future, was to be a political Rock Artist.
And not in the way Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Graham Nash, and John Hall were political. They were heroes. On the front lines. His interest, at least at first, was journalism. Combining his art and journalism. The way Bob Dylan did as a Folk artist. He would be the first to make art about political problems all the time, with every individual song relating to a bigger theme on every album. Nobody had done that, not on a regular basis.
Well, first of all, everybody else was too intelligent. It was a career-ending move, and they knew it. He didn’t care. In the heat of self-discovery, a career was the last thing on his mind. This blind naivete would turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
He was interested only in the adventure of learning. His life had started over again, and he had become a seeker. He was in search of truth to absorb, of lies to expose. He was making up for everything he hadn’t learned in school and maybe, just maybe, justifying his existence in the process.
When he had embarked on his solo career, he had outlined five albums that handled five different kinds of political problems.
But things had gotten more complicated when his creative passion and his practical research were combined and he was drawn into the real-world issues he was writing about.
South Africa was the best example.
The challenge of the remainder of his life was crystallizing on that back-seat floor.
The car slowed down for a moment, then sped back up. Had they been waved through the checkpoint? It was his second trip to South Africa trying to complete the research for his third solo album.
He should have felt fear under that blanket. But he didn’t. All fear had left his being.
He realized it on the long flight from New York. He’d never liked flying. Always a bit squeamish about the turbulence. Suddenly it hit him. He was over it.
He was over it because he’d blown it. He’d worked his whole life to achieve the impossible dream of being a Rock and Roll star. And just as he’d finally, miraculously made it, he had walked away.
From the moment on the plane when he let go of his fear, suicide would be his constant companion and temptation. No longer fearing death, it turned out, was an asset. It let him go places and observe them without giving a fuck about his own safety.
He’d lost his band, his best friend, his career, his way of making a living. Everything. Why? Just to pursue some abstract idea of justifying his existence?
He still wasn’t even sure about being a front man. He happened to be quite natural at it, but he just didn’t need it. All great front men needed the spotlight. The adoration. The endorsement. The reassurance. The completion of something missing in their souls.
He needed some of those things, but not as much, and not in the traditional way. When he was a kid and fantasized about being in his favorite bands, he was never the front man. He was George in the Beatles, Keith in the Stones, Dave in the Kinks, Jeff in the Yardbirds, and Pete in the Who.
He liked to watch people, to sit at a sidewalk café and just be. All of that vanished when you were in front. You were crowded all the time. You couldn’t observe if you were constantly being observed. It brought out his claustrophobia.
And yet here he was, in front, but also under a blanket in back. It was a strange state he’d gotten to. And yet surprisingly liberating. He had an unusual clarity. He felt like he’d finally discovered what he was born to do.
And so, like every mythological Greek hero in denial of the inevitable tragic results, he had set off on his quest. His odyssey. Relentlessly, calmly, and, yes, fearlessly, irrationally determined to fulfill it.
The car stopped.
They were… where? All the houses looked the same. Eight members of the executive council of AZAPO, machetes in their waistbands, waited inside to put him on trial.
He looked up from the mist, impenetrable, township shrouded in doom, into the crystal clear African sky. Is this where life began? Or was this where it all ended?
The eternal spirit of the world’s original motherland was whispering in his ear.
He smiled to his companions to calm their nerves. Shrugged with acceptance.
And walked in…
If you’re gonna do something, do it right.
—WILLIAM VAN ZANDT SR., GIVING ADVICE TO HIS LAZY OLDEST SON (THE UNWRITTEN BOOK)
My first epiphany came at the age of ten, in 1961, in my room at 263 Wilson Avenue, New Monmouth, Middletown, New Jersey, during my fifty-fifth consecutive time listening to “Pretty Little Angel Eyes” by Curtis Lee.
That’s what we did in those days.
A song on the radio would stop your life and start it up again. Talk about the perfect relationship completing you? When you were a kid in the ’60s, the right song completed you. It made your day.
Owning a great record wasn’t optional. You had to have it. That meant convincing your mom to drive you into town and then, with great anticipation and reverence, entering the teenage church / temple / synagogue / sweat lodge known as the record store.
Mine was Jack’s Record Shoppe in Red Bank, which had a Music Shoppe on the other side of the street. Getting in early with the British Invasion with that spelling.
It’s where I’d buy my first guitar a few years later. Still there, incredibly.
The store was a beautifully constructed place of worship, as ornate and glorious as any European cathedral. I’d go through dozens of bins to find the record I’d heard on the radio, take it to the counter, and give the guy my hard-earned seventy-nine cents. Then, back at home, I’d listen to it over and over again until it became a physical part of me.
We were the second generation of Rock and Roll kids, which meant that we were only the second generation able to play records in the privacy of our own rooms. The 45 rpm single was invented by RCA in 1949 in retaliation for Columbia inventing the 33⅓ rpm LP the year before. Individual portable record players soon followed. Up until then, the record player was in the living room, in the same piece of furniture that held the TV and radio.
If it wasn’t for that portable machine, Rock and Roll might never have happened.
A record player in the living room meant kids needed their parents’ permission, or at least tolerance, to listen to what they wanted. Without the portable player, the first generation of Rock kids would have never gotten Little Richard, Bo Diddley, and Jerry Lee Lewis past their parents.
The older generation viewed those 1950s pioneers as an odd combination of novelty and threat. Humorous because of their onstage antics, flamboyant looks, and complete lack of talent (as parents defined it), but scary because there was an uncomfortable element of black culture connecting it all. What effect would that have on kids who already had too much time on their hands for their own good?
Rock could have been snuffed out right there!
But it went up to the kids’ bedrooms. It isn’t my imagination when I say that back in the ’60s you didn’t just hear records, you felt them. Sound waves entered your body. The needle, dragging through analog impulses miraculously etched into a piece of plastic, somehow had a deeper, more physical level of communication than modern digital music.
I happened to be in London for the twentieth anniversary of Sgt. Pepper, and EMI, my label at the time, invited a bunch of us to hear the original four-track analog tapes at Abbey Road. I have never heard anything quite like it before or since. I swear to you, I felt stoned for two days afterward. Drug-free.
There had been great strides breaking through to autistic children with music. They ended when the world went digital.
I remember reading that it took two hundred plays to wear a record out. The high frequencies would finally give up. Technology was no match for teenage passion and perseverance.
I passed that limit often. “Twist and Shout” by the Isley Brothers, “Sherry” by the Four Seasons, “Duke of Earl” by Gene Chandler. Had to buy them again.
So there I was, just getting started on “Pretty Little Angel Eyes,” and even though I can’t remember what I had for breakfast today, I vividly remember looking out my window, seeing a neighbor, Louie Baron, and experiencing a rush of exultation. The music had released my endorphins in a new and unexpected way.
I wanted to run down the stairs and embrace Louie and tell him he was my friend. And that friendship was everything. And that love and music would save the world. I could see a beautiful future clearly. It was there for all of humankind.
My first epiphany.
I didn’t do it, of course. My bliss didn’t make me completely stupid. Men didn’t embrace other men in those days.
I was always a little slower than most kids, so my ecstasy didn’t immediately trigger what should have been obvious curiosity. Who was making the music? How was it made? Could I make it myself? These thoughts wouldn’t come for another couple of years. But music would soon replace my religious fervor.
Did I mention I was a very religious kid? I regularly went to Sunday School, accepted Jesus as my personal savior, got baptized at nine or ten. That’s how Protestants did it, as opposed to Catholics, who baptize at birth. They don’t take any chances.
I was extremely devout there for a couple of years.
Easter Sunrise Service was the test. You had to get up at 4 a.m. to make it to some mountaintop in Highlands by six. I don’t remember my parents going to this, only the church elders and a few super extremist types. I liked the respect I got. I could see it in people’s eyes. I went two years running, maybe three.
I’ve always wanted to be the guy who knows. The guy with the inside dope. I was willing to put the work in, to spend the time to find out. At the age of ten, I figured religion was where the answers were hidden.
In addition to that, I obviously had some genetic penchant for metaphysical zealotry. A need to be part of something larger. A sense of wanting to belong is built into human nature; the zealotry part is what separates the holy rollers, and holy rock and rollers, from regular, far more sane civilians.
Looking back, I also could have been trying to impress my new father. I was brought up kind of Catholic, and my mother changed teams when she remarried. Or at least she pretended to. She secretly kept eating fish on Fridays and prayed to Saint Anthony when something got lost.
When I was eight, the only father I would ever know, William Van Zandt, moved us from Boston, where I was born, to New Jersey so I could get on with fulfilling my destiny.
He was a funny kind of guy. Short, tough, quiet, stoic to the max. Ex-Marine, Goldwater Republican. He had a flattened, broken nose from boxing, either on the Marines team or maybe Golden Gloves. He had played trumpet as a kid, but I don’t remember him ever playing it. Ironically, or whatever the right word is, trumpet should have been my instrument. But I never had the lungs for it. It’s the most evocative instrument to me, especially for film scores. What’s better than the opening of The Godfather? Or the Miles Davis score of Elevator to the Gallows (Ascenseur pour l’échafaud)?
The only records I remember my father listening to on the big living room phonograph were by Arthur Prysock. When he was in a particularly good mood, he would occasionally sing along. He had a good voice.
He spent every Tuesday night with the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America (SPEBSQSA), now wisely reduced to the Barbershop Harmony Society, or BHS. Thinking back now, I see how his singing with a Barbershop quartet, the Bayshore Four, could have stimulated my lifelong love of Doo-Wop and harmony in general. The Mills Brothers, sons of a member of a Barbershop quartet, and the Ink Spots are considered direct links to the roots of Doo-Wop.
I am deeply embarrassed to admit it, but I don’t remember ever having one single conversation with him about his life. What he did as a kid. Who he liked. What his dreams were.
My mother never talked about my blood father. It must have been a bad situation, because people didn’t get divorced much in those days. Especially Catholics. And double especially Catholics with kids. I never pictured my mother as particularly rebellious, but that was an extraordinarily rebellious act in those days. He died young is all I know. I should have asked her for more details, but I always felt it would have been disrespectful to my father.
She was a classic ’30s/’40s woman. With the big exception of uncharacteristically leaving her husband, she accepted life as it was. No ambition. No opinions. No drama. Followed the rules. Great cook. Easy smile. Always in a good mood when I was young. Society didn’t expect much and didn’t allow much. Lived for her kids. And at that point, that meant me.
We moved in with her parents, Adelaide and Sam Lento, so I had two uncles and two aunts around to help bring me up. It takes a village… of goombahs!
When we split to Jersey, the family followed. Nana Lento said it was because of me, her first grandchild, which was a big deal in Italian families. Since four of her five children ended up living in Jersey, we gathered at her house every Sunday, a short walk from our church, for the classic Italian supper, a mix of lunch and dinner that ran from early afternoon until evening. Wives, husbands, kids—had to be fifteen, sometimes twenty of us.
My father’s father was long gone, and all I know is he had turned down a job pitching for the New York Giants before they moved to San Francisco, because it didn’t pay enough, and had come in second to Bobby Jones in a golf tournament in South Carolina.
We would visit Nana Van Zandt in Hackensack every month or so, and she was quite a character. She was from one of the Carolinas and looked exactly like Granny from The Beverly Hillbillies. So I grew up with grits. Real grits. Just butter, salt, and pepper, thank you, none of that horrible cheese people like to add.
One day I found a warped old acoustic guitar in her attic that my father said had belonged to his father.
My mother’s father, Grampa Sam Lento, also played guitar, and he started teaching me the folk song of his village in Calabria in southern Italy.
Not songs. Song. Just one short repeating melody. Maybe he thought that was all I could handle.
Sam was an archetypal traditional Italian shoemaker, and I’d work summers in his shop in Keansburg. He’d have one of our two identical Pop stations, WABC or WMCA, playing loud in the shop. I can still smell the shoe polish and hear the hum of the machines accompanying “Baby, baby, where did our love go?”
Nobody wanted to talk about Sam’s origins. All we knew was that he had left Calabria suddenly and ended up with a successful shoe business in the Italian section of Boston before moving down to Jersey.
I’d like to think he got out of the country with some stolen money from the ’Ndrangheta. It would have been totally out of character, but it’s a nice fantasy.
Nana Lento, always the life of the party, was Napolitano. Picture Marty Scorsese’s mother Catherine in Goodfellas. She was always good for a laugh, usually unintentional. Like the time my sister Kathi brought home a Jewish boyfriend for Thanksgiving and Nana sincerely asked if his people also celebrated the holiday. If there’s any genetic showbiz in me it comes from her. She was always in a good mood with the rest of us, me especially, but she harassed my grandfather mercilessly. Maybe he’d disappointed her by not ending up successful and rich, the fate of most marriages. Or maybe it was what Nana mentioned to me fairly often, revenge for Sam’s mother constantly mocking her accent. Whatever it was, she took it out on him. For forty years.
He just took it quietly. He was another stoic, Italian-style. More omertà than stoic, I guess. Old-school. He always had a smile behind his eyes that suggested he knew things he was never gonna talk about. Once again, I wish I’d had more conversations with him.
My blood keeps life interesting.
- “Unrequited Infatuations is a wonderfully original take on a Rock ’n’ Roll autobiography.”—Paul McCartney
“In the New Jersey state of mind somewhere between Bruce Springsteen Stadium and The Bon Jovi Arena is a little known street called Little Steven Boulevard with hundreds of endless souvenir shops, gift stores all associated with Little Steven the Consigliere, all top level stuff, the gangster memorabilia, Little Steven wallets and handbags, bandanas and head scarfs, Little Steven glassware and coffee mugs, Little Steven flags, key chains, stickers and patches, pens and guitar picks, cardboard stand-up cut outs of Little Steven, jigsaw puzzles and buttons. You can spend a fortune on the street, listen to every song he ever played on and watch every television show that he’s made, visit the underground garage and also enroll in the Little Stevie’s underground college. It’s all there, a lot of copies of this book as well. And just like one of Stevie’s favorite songs, this book keeps you hanging on and checks all the boxes (check out the one on page 153—it’s hilarious and there’s hundreds of others).
This indeed is a cautionary tale filled with outrageous humor, worldly wisdom, and an uncanny sense of daring. No doubt about it, Stevie proves it time and time again he’s the man to know.”—Bob Dylan
- “An inimitable Rock ’n’ Roll life told as boldly as it was lived. From the stages of the biggest stadiums in the world to the politically roiling provinces of South Africa, my good friend pursued his Rock ’n’ Roll vision with a commitment few have displayed. A must read for E Street Band fans and Rock fans the world over. In this book Little Steven LETS IT ROCK!”—Bruce Springsteen
- “What a wonderful, witty, incisive, moving, authentic, and beautifully written memoir. Stevie Van Zandt’s Unrequited Infatuations is a heartfelt and soulful tour though Rock ’n’ Roll history, politics, and pop culture from the vantage point of a rare talent and singular American life. I loved every page.”—Harlan Coben, bestselling author of Win, The Boy from the Woods, Run Away, and the Myron Bolitar series
- “A glorious trip into the mind of a true Rock and roll Renaissance Man. Stevie’s autobiography digs beneath the surface of his music, evolving into something extraordinarily rich and complex. It’s part Rock ’n’ Roll history lesson, part political thriller, part revelatory dive into the brotherhood of a band. And so much more. What’s most impressive is Stevie’s self-deprecating honesty. He has the courage to write about his failures, alongside tales of his enormous success. The stories are also wildly entertaining, hilarious and emotionally devastating. One of the best Rock ’n’ Roll books ever written. It belongs on a shelf between Bob Dylan’s Chronicles and Gerri Hershey’s Nowhere To Run. A masterpiece.”—Chris Columbus, director, producer, and screenwriter
- “Steven and I grew up in the same town, two miles apart—unless you count the fact that creatively, he was on another planet. Beneath the bandana is the beautiful mind of a polymath: singer, songwriter, actor, activist, arranger, thinker, and creator. There is sex, there are drugs, and thank the Lord—there is rock and roll. Names are named. Mistakes are made. Fights are (mostly) forgiven. And lightning strikes more than once. This is the beautifully told story of a great American life, and I dreaded the arrival of the final page.”—Brian Williams, journalist
- “I was expecting a great music book with a bit more depth than most. What I got was the Tao Te Ching of Rock biographies! Only it’s Lao Tzu with a fabulous sense of humor! This adventure is metaphysically amazing.”—Michael Des Barres, actor / writer / musician / DJ
- “Steven Van Zandt is the ultimate Rock ’n’ Roll soldier, an eyewitness to history who has made plenty of his own in the trenches and the studio. His stories of struggle and awakening, the mysteries of creation, and the ties that bind in every great band come at you like a blaze of killer 45s in a true voice of America: part Vegas, part Alan Freed, all New Jersey.”—David Fricke, journalist, SiriusXM, Mojo, Rolling Stone
“Unrequited Infatuations is as musical, soulful, funny, adventurous, inspiring, and real as the man who wrote it, the one and only Stevie Van Zandt."—Jon Landau, journalist, music producer, and manager
- “If this book was a song, you’d want to crank up the volume. It’s one of the best rock memoirs ever. It’s got soul, it’s got humor, it’s got some tough truths and some wild stories all wrapped up in battle scars and telling memories you’d usually need a backstage pass to catch. Most of all—as the gentlemen vocalists of another era would say—it’s a gasser. It’s so much fun you can dance to it.”—Jay Cocks, film critic and screenwriter
- “A pleasure for music fans and one of the best entertainment memoirs in recent years."—Kirkus Reviews
- “Stands head and shoulders above the many celebrity memoirs out there.”—Publishers Weekly
“Steven Van Zandt believes in the power of rock 'n' roll. He lives it, breathes it, brings it to life on the stage, and, with his new memoir, Unrequited Infatuations, magnificently on the page….[The book] is rife with the highs and lows, joys and conundrums that have marked his progress to rock's loftiest plateaus and life's most crushing ebbs. But Van Zandt's story is also about having the courage to take logic-defying, outrageous risks….As [his] story powerfully demonstrates, the musician discovered the essence of his life's passion in the moment when he gave up everything….As with the best and most honest of life stories, Unrequited Infatuations reminds us that it's the getting there that matters.”
- “[Van Zandt’s] florid voice translates well to the page. The result is a delightful memoir that is a whole lotta wild fun. All in all, this book is utterly true to who Van Zandt is.”—Air Mail
- “[Van Zandt’s] new memoir illustrates just how seminal he’s been in the past five decades of American popular music. An anti-apartheid activist who wrote the protest song “Sun City,” he’s spent years celebrating and advocating for rock ’n’ roll as an art form: He hosts a weekly syndicated radio show focused on garage rock, created two music channels on SiriusXM, founded an indie record label, and even helped develop an arts education initiative that incorporates music history — from classical to reggae — into K-12 curricula. While some rock stars hide behind a veil of detached coolness, Van Zandt is a man marked by genuine enthusiasm, and his memoir reads like a love letter to the people and places and music that made him, with a healthy dose of nostalgia and good-natured humor.”—AARP, “9 New Music Memoirs and Biographies for Rock and Blues Fans”
- "A rollicking read."—USA Today
- “One of the best musician’s memoirs I’ve ever read.”—Alan Paul, Wall Street Journal Contributor
- “In his fantastic memoir, Unrequited Infatuations, Van Zandt digs into both of those worlds – as a musician and actor – each with compelling backstage stories and refreshing frankness… Van Zandt’s humor and humility is evident throughout the book, speaking nonchalantly and often in self-deprecating ways about his role and impact on some of biggest pop and art cultural moments in modern memory.”—Glide Magazine
- "[UNREQUITED INFATUATIONS is] a highly entertaining and rollicking memoir.” —Houston Press
- “This thing bounces on the page, from the E Street Band to The Sopranos to Sun City, with a discursive glee. He reads like the Last American Beat.”—Chicago Triibune
- “The book is an insightful look at the creative process…[and] recounts his extraordinary journey from playing guitar in Springsteen’s E Street Band to playing gangster Silvio Dante in the classic HBO series The Sopranos, as well as his work as a writer, activist and arts advocate.”—Wall Street Journal
“E Street Band fanatics, take note: Little Steven has written a memoir chock-full of previously untold stories about his Baptist upbringing, joining forces with Bruce Springsteen, recording Sun City and becoming a political activist, acting on The Sopranos and more.”
- “Van Zandt’s unique memoir…combines his expansive knowledge of music creation with his personal development in the sociopolitical sphere…[His] bravado shines through his prose, and he’s refreshingly honest as he takes readers through his many professional disappointments. Sprinkled throughout are a truly impressive history of rock and roll and entertaining digressions about famous friends in the music and film industry that will appeal to all readers….Van Zandt is front and center in this wild, fun memoir.”—Booklist
- On Sale
- Sep 28, 2021
- Page Count
- 416 pages
- Hachette Books