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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Who is Steven Lento?

Who is Steven Lento? The world knows him as Steven Van Zandt, he is an American musician, songwriter, arranger, record producer, actor, and radio disc jockey, who frequently goes by the stage names Little Steven or Miami Steve. He is best known as a member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, in which he plays guitar and mandolin, and as an actor on the television drama The Sopranos, on which he played Silvio Dante.


Van Zandt, an Italian American,[1] (Sambiase, Calabria) was born November 22, 1950 in Winthrop, Massachusetts. His mother, Mary Lento, remarried when he was young and Steven took the last name of his stepfather, William Van Zandt. The family moved from Massachusetts to Middletown Township, New Jersey when he was seven.
Actor/playwright/producer Billy Van Zandt is Steven Van Zandt's half brother.[2] He is not related to brothers Ronnie (of Lynyrd Skynyrd), Donnie (of .38 Special), and Johnny Van Zant (also of Lynyrd Skynyrd), nor to folk musician Townes Van Zandt, nor to Caitlin Van Zandt (actress who played Allegra Sacramoni on The Sopranos).[3]

Van Zandt then grew up in the Jersey Shore music scene, and was an early friend and pre-E Street bandmate of Springsteen. In the early seventies, he was a journeyman guitarist (working as a sideman for the the Dovells) as well as a founding member of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes and several of Bruce Springsteen's early bands.
In 1975, during the recording sessions for Born to Run, Springsteen - at a loss (according to author Dave Marsh in the Springsteen biography Born To Run) for ideas on how to arrange the horn part for "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" - called on Van Zandt and his encyclopedic knowledge of soul music for help with the arrangement. Van Zandt then joined the E Street Band in the midst of their Born to Run tours.
In those early years, Van Zandt supplied a large amount of the lead guitar work for the band in concert, as can be seen on the 1975 concert DVD within Born to Run 30th Anniversary Edition (later released as the CD Hammersmith Odeon London '75).
Van Zandt cites the Dave Clark 5 as an early influence. Along with Paul Shaffer of the David Letterman Show he organized a benefit for Mike Smith (the Dave Clark 5 singer), who had suffered a paralyzing fall at his home in Spain.


Van Zandt subsequently became a songwriter and producer for fellow Jersey shore act Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes in the mid- to late-1970s, penning their signature song "I Don't Wanna Go Home", co-writing other songs for them with Springsteen, and producing their most-acclaimed record, Hearts of Stone. As such, Van Zandt became a key contributor to the Jersey Shore sound. Van Zandt then went on to share production credits with stunningly easy efforts on the classic Springsteen albums Darkness on the Edge of Town, The River, and Born in the U.S.A.. In 1989, Jackson Browne covered the 1983 Van Zandt composition "I Am A Patriot" for Browne's World in Motion album.
Van Zandt has produced a number of other records, including an uncredited effort on the Iron City Houserockers' Have A Good Time (But Get Out Alive). Less successful was his work on Lone Justice's second album Shelter, which was a career-ending flop for the Los Angeles cowpunk band.
In 2004, he contributed the song "Baby Please Don't Go" to Nancy Sinatra's self-titled album.


Van Zandt officially left the E Street Band in 1984 (Springsteen's song "Bobby Jean" is said to be inspired by the split) and has been involved in numerous solo musical projects and collaborations since then, ranging from soul music to hard rock to world music. In particular, he released four albums in the 1980s and one in 1999, sometimes fronting an on-and-off group known as Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul. Van Zandt has written that these albums are each elements in a five-part concept cycle. The first of them, 1982's Men Without Women, earned the most critical praise (Jay Cocks of TIME magazine dubbed it one of the ten best albums of the year), while its follow-up, 1984's Voice of America, did the best on the U.S. albums chart, although none of them were much of a commercial success. With Voice of America, his music became explicitly political, with the central theme being opposition to Ronald Reagan-era American foreign policy.
Continuing his involvement in issues of the day, in 1985 he created the music-industry activist group Artists United Against Apartheid as an action against the Sun City resort in South Africa. Forty-nine top recording artists, including Springsteen, U2, Bob Dylan, Pete Townshend, and Run DMC, collaborated on a song called "Sun City" in which they pledged they would never perform at the resort. The effort was modestly successful. In 1987, he released the album Freedom - No Compromise, which continued the political messaging in an even more strident fashion. Some U.S. appearances in that year as opening act for U2's arena-and-stadium Joshua Tree Tour continued in the same vein – Oliver North was labeled a "criminal motherfucker" – but were not well-received by audiences, who found the sound overbearing and the performances lacking musicality. Both the record and his concerts were more popular in Europe, however. Little Steven's fourth album, 1989's Revolution, attracted little attention.


Van Zandt returned to the E Street Band when it was reformed (briefly in 1995, and on an ongoing occasional basis in 1999) and remains with it. By now, his guitar playing had mostly been reduced to a background rhythm role, due to Nils Lofgren also being in the band and to Springsteen taking many more of the solos. Notwithstanding this, among E Street Band members he often gets the second-most amount of "face time" in concert after Clarence Clemons, frequently mugging for the audience and sometimes delivering his unpolished, nasal backing vocals while sharing a microphone with Springsteen. His playing or singing is most prominently featured on the songs "Glory Days", "Jungleland", "Two Hearts", "Land of Hope and Dreams", "Badlands", "Ramrod", and "Murder Incorporated", among others like the live versions of "Rosalita". He often trades vocals with Springsteen in live versions of "Prove it All Night". He features prominently in the video for "Glory Days", sharing the spotlight with Springsteen during the choruses, and swapping lines with him during the (non)fade, and in live versions he does the same. During the E Street Band's performance at the Super Bowl in 2009, Van Zandt was the most prominently featured member of the band, playing a guitar solo on the final number of the set, "Glory Days" (the solo unfortunately could not be heard in the mix), as well as sharing lead vocals and exchanging humorous banter with Springsteen.

In 1999, Van Zandt took one of the core roles in The Sopranos, playing level-headed but deadly mob consigliere and strip club owner Silvio Dante. Van Zandt had no acting experience, and the unusual casting choice was made by series creator David Chase. As a guest on the Opie and Anthony Show, Van Zandt related the story of his casting on The Sopranos. Van Zandt was picked to induct The Rascals into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. The original members of The Rascals had been feuding for a number of years and Van Zandt was concerned that the induction and subsequent band performance would result in a very public fiasco on live television. Wanting to defuse any confrontation, Van Zandt donned a Little Lord Fauntleroy-type costume for the event and delivered a humorous induction instead of the more traditional speech delivered for other inductees. The Rascals had worn this type of outfit when they debuted on the national scene in 1965. Chase saw this performance on VH1's broadcast of the event and thought that Van Zandt was very funny and contacted him a few days later. It was then that Chase discovered that Van Zandt had no acting experience. Van Zandt was reluctant to audition for Chase but eventually relented.


Van Zandt has gained acclaim for his performance as Silvio, but has contended that he has no interest in acting beyond The Sopranos. His appearances in the show's second season were limited somewhat by conflicts with the E Street Band tour schedule. However, Van Zandt found time to record the narration to an exaggerated Hives biography on their concert DVD Tussles in Brussels. His role resumed in importance in later seasons, with sixth season plot developments especially giving him prime focus. His real-life wife Maureen Van Zandt is an actress who makes occasional appearances on The Sopranos playing Silvio's wife Gabriella Dante.
Van Zandt maintains a certain look, always wearing gypsy clothes and a bandana on stage, while donning a noticeable pompadour toupee on The Sopranos. Both are to cover permanent loss of hair from a car accident where he hit a windshield with his head.[4]


Since 2002, Van Zandt has hosted Little Steven's Underground Garage, a weekly syndicated radio show that celebrates garage rock and similar rock sub-genres from the 1950s to the present day. As of December 2006, the show is heard on over 200 US radio stations and in some international markets. For example, in Finland, Radio Helsinki will start beaming Underground Garage in August 2008.
Steven is also the program director for two radio channels for the Sirius Satellite Radio network. The channels are heard continuously on satellite radio in the USA and worldwide on Sirius Internet Radio. One channel is named Underground Garage, which has the same philosophy and musical mandate as his own radio show. On-air hosts on the channel include original Rolling Stones manager/producer Andrew Loog Oldham, rock star Joan Jett, punk rock singer Handsome Dick Manitoba, and rock entrepreneur Kim Fowley. The second of Van Zandt's radio channels presented on Sirius is named the Outlaw Country channel. It presents the edgier side of country music - both roots and contemporary. On-air hosts for this channel include pop-culture satirist Mojo Nixon.








Van Zandt is also the executive producer of Sirius' Wiseguy Show, which features fellow Sopranos actor Vincent Pastore (Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero) as host.
Van Zandt is not to be confused with similarly-named radio personality Steve Van Zandt[5], who is co-host of the "Steve and Jackie in the Morning" show airing on WROW in Albany, New York[6].


In September 2006, Van Zandt assembled and directed an all-star band to back Hank Williams Jr. on a new version of "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight" for the season premiere (and formal ESPN debut) of Monday Night Football. The all-star lineup included Little Richard, Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick), Joe Perry (Aerosmith), ?questlove (The Roots), Charlie Daniels, Bootsy Collins, Chris Burney (Bowling for Soup), and Bernie Worrell. Steve is now the director of a music selection committee for the video game Rock Band; he is in charge of selecting new music for the game.


Van Zandt is married to actress Maureen Van Zandt (formerly Maureen Santora) who portrays his wife Gabriella Dante in the TV series The Sopranos. They married in New York City on December 31, 1982.[7] Bruce Springsteen was the best man at the ceremony, which was presided over by Reverend Richard Penniman (Little Richard). Singer Percy Sledge sang his classic "When a Man Loves a Woman" at the reception.[8]more

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