In the world of rock and roll, Stevie Van Zandt is a bit of a renaissance man: performer, songwriter, band leader, radio host, DJ, and record producer, not to mention his work acting (in The Sopranos and Lilyhammer on television, as well as on Broadway) and producing films, and his considerable role as an anti-apartheid activist. In September he’s also adding memoirist to the list with the publication of Unrequited Infatuations (Hachette). With so many interests, he says, “I had to find the right balance between narrative and what I call substance.”
Although Van Zandt first thought about writing a memoir a decade ago, he says that he waited, because he couldn’t find an ending. “I also felt it was important for Bruce [as in, Springsteen] to write his memoir first because that would satisfy the Bruce people. I didn’t want this to have any ‘Bruce News,’ and that’s one of the reasons why I waited 10 years.” He adds, “I thought if I do write a book, it’s going to be about me and my adventures, my odyssey—so that was important.”
The book is also coming at a time of prolific musical output. “These previous three years were the most productive of my life: six album packages, two brand new albums, all of my entire catalog remastered, 50 bonus tracks we found in the vaults, the entire score from Lillyhammer, which I’d done and never released, and now this new ‘Macca to Mecca’ Beatles tribute,” Van Zandt says. “Having done that work these past three years along with the circumstances of the pandemic—literally being in quarantine for a year—what are you going to do?” He laughs and adds, “Either you start a podcast or you write a book—what else is there?”
Van Zandt describes the book as “a bit of an adventure story for those who are not interested in any of the crafts—songwriting, or guitar playing, producing Broadway or TV or radio, the music education program—along with other various subjects people might find interesting.” He laughs again and adds, “The accidental, unintentional triumph of art over commerce is how I would sum up my life.”
Van Zandt will be in conversation with Ben Greenman, the editor of Unrequited Infatuations, on Wednesday, May 26, 1:30–2 p.m. ET.