New Jersey produced the two greatest Bosses in American culture and they both chose the same right-hand man. Steven Van Zandt was best known as a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band until he was cast, despite having no prior acting experience, as Tony Soprano’s consigliere Silvio Dante. With his unrufflable demeanour, face like a Greek tragedy mask and a mean way with a Michael Corleone impression, Van Zandt had been Sopranos creator David Chase’s original choice to play Tony himself.
I don’t know about you but if the two main entries on my CV were “E Street Band” and “The Sopranos” I’d probably take the rest of my life off. Not so for Van Zandt. In the early 80s he formed his own band, Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul, who this month return with new album Summer of Sorcery. Politically outspoken in his music for years (see 1985 anti-apartheid protest anthem “Sun City”), he’s now a more recent vocal opponent of Brexit, saying in 2018 that he hopes for a second referendum and that “the citizens of the UK realise this is a huge mistake”.
When we meet for coffee at the Sunset Marquis in West Hollywood Van Zandt arrives wearing a purple bandana and Technicolor scarf, his neck festooned with Mardi Gras beads, and proceeds to hold court on why he didn’t end up playing Tony Soprano, how he saved “Born to Run” and what it’s like getting married when your priest is Little Richard.