Bruce Springsteen returned home over the weekend to honor longtime friend and bandmate Steven Van Zandt during the guitarist’s induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in Asbury Park.
“Though born in Boston, Massachusetts, there is no pure distillation of the Jersey ethos [like] ‘Little’ Steven Van Zandt,” Springsteen, 68, said during Sunday’s ceremony at Asbury’s Paramount Theatre. “Roaring into New Jersey at seven years old, baptized at 13 in the Holy Spirit of the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, the Stones on Hollywood Palace, Steve’s vocation — rock and roll — chose him early.”
Van Zandt, 67, was one of 17 New Jersey icons to be inducted into the Hall this year, which marks the organization’s 10th anniversary. Other inductees this year include Blondie’s Debbie Harry, who was raised in Hawthorne, and singer Gloria Gaynor, of Newark. Springsteen himself was inducted back in 2008 — a year that included Jersey-born stars like Frank Sinatra and Meryl Streep.
As Springsteen told the audience, he actually first met Van Zandt back in 1966, when he saw him performing on stage. All it took was one glance, and Springsteen know they “drunk the same Kool-Aid,” and a friendship began.
“This all culminated in our brotherhood in the E Street, Steve’s service — playing, singing, producing as my irreplaceable lieutenant — and our lifelong friendship,” Springsteen said, adding that the guitarist’s solo work “speaks for itself.”
Aside from his music work, Springsteen also seemed impressed with Van Zandt’s fashion sensibility, as well as his choice in wedding entertainment.
“This is a man who was married to his loveley wife Maureen by Little Richard, who was serenaded down the aisle by the great Percy Sledge, is the sole creator of the male babushka, and is the only man I know besides Hugh Hefner who has figured out how to spend his whole life in pajamas,” Springsteen said. “I love you, Steve.”
Van Zandt, for his part, said in his acceptance speech that he had New Jersey to thank for everything. After all, without Jersey, there’s no Springsteen. And without Springsteen, there’s no Little Steven.
“If I hadn’t been in New Jersey in the ’60s, exactly where I was, doing what I happened to be doing, in the manner I was doing it, I never would have met Bruce Springsteen,” Van Zandt said. “Thank you New Jersey. You have been very, very good to me, and I hope someday, if my luck holds out, to eventually return the favor.”
After the induction, Springsteen and Van Zandt joined the house band for a rendition of “I Don’t Want to Go Home” by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. Van Zandt, as it turns out, wrote the track for the group’s debut, eponymous album in 1976.