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Stevie Van Zandt’s fascinating memoir, written during what he referred to as the ‘pandemic of stupidity’, is subtitled ‘Odyssey of a Rock and Roll Consigliere (A Cautionary Tale)’, and that bracketed aside is a telling one. Although packed with details of his many works, Stevie is apparently torn between taking credit and downplaying his achievements. A typical self-deprecating comment, referring to his decision to leave The E Street Band: ‘He chose to take the adventure instead of the money. What a putz.’ This duality emerges immediately, the book’s prologue being written in the third person, then moving to first person for the main part of the text, and returning to third person for the epilogue.

‘West Side Story’ made a big early impression, particularly the idea of gangs and belonging, which Stevie found in bands. He saw himself as playing the Dean Martin role in rock and roll’s Rat Pack: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band. His relationship with Bruce, who first nicknamed him ‘Miami Steve’, was ‘a lifelong brotherly love affair.’

Stevie’s approach to music was influenced by early rock writers like Jon Landau, Paul Nelson and Greil Marcus ‘who were suddenly recognising and celebrating this new Artform and treating it seriously as such.’ He chose to do much the same. Stevie described his evolution as ‘a half-a-hippie guitar player’ who became ‘a political Rock Artist’. He became ‘Little Steven’ to ‘become the Political Guy, and release and embody my inner ‘60s gypsy forevermore.’

The role of his ‘invisible man’ persona was occasionally ‘unintentionally stabilising’, for example he describes rescuing The E Street Band from breaking up in 1977, by helping arrange their temporary collaboration with Ronnie Spector. He was an ‘influencer’ long before the term gained its more recent popularity. Stevie’s ‘natural instinct as a Producer was to realise the potential of everyone and everything I saw.’

Moving beyond music and activism, the book reveals nuggets like when Stevie auditioned for an acting part for Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Last Temptation Of Christ’; the role would have been – fittingly - a Disciple. Later in his career, he decided his dream work would combine theatre, writing, producing and directing, as embodied in projects like his reunion of The Rascals, envisaged as potentially the first of many similar live revivals – or so he hoped.

‘Unrequited Infatuations’ meant the sense that ‘the business was not returning my love.’ Stevie summed up many projects with the recurring comment: ‘Nobody heard (or saw) it.’ He complained of ‘a growing list of self-disappointments’, such as his struggle to get the Patti Smith Group inducted as a band into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. A stark confession was that he ‘felt under siege my whole life. Always behind, always running to catch up, never quite getting there.’ The memoir could equally have been titled ‘Unresolved Ambitions’, or some similar phrase. He was aware of a ‘constant challenge’ in the personality conflict caused by the two sides of his Italian bloodline, the action man Napolitano versus the stolid Calabrese. His restless energy and passion, coming from the former influence, was compromised by the latter part of him that held him back from doing what might have served his interests best.

Ultimately, perhaps this frustration can be tempered by a reality check. Stevie wasn’t concerned with factual accuracy, admitting ‘Who knows? We’re all making up half of this shit, anyway.’ He went further to note ‘This book is only the 10% I still remember.’

Reading his account gave me a sense of my Stevie fandom flashing in front of my eyes, joining the dots of an extraordinary list of activities over his career to date. He chose not to delve as much as might be expected about aspects like life on the road with E Street, or sharing Sopranos stories, being more concerned with presenting the bigger overall picture he has pursued. He has embodied the idea of a modern artistic and political Renaissance Man, and then some.

Despite an ongoing career many would consider remarkable, Stevie has driven himself ever on, even in his 70s determined to ‘live with purpose’, chasing his elusive dreams, to him seemingly always just out of reach. Not content to just recount the past, a 9-point manifesto of his wishes for the future of the US is included. His book draws to a close with a note of unquenched hope that his TeachRock arts curriculum, already successful, might yet be the one part of his legacy to make a lasting difference.

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