Bruce Springsteen Is ‘Playing a Character,’ According to Former Bandmate

by Leanne Stahulak

Steven Van Zandt, former guitarist for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, said leaving that band was “the big mistake of my life.”

At the time, it didn’t feel like a mistake. It felt necessary because Van Zandt and Springsteen had a huge falling out while the band recorded the 1984 album “Born in the USA.” But Van Zandt’s had a lot of time to reflect since then, and he recently took the time to unpack that moment in his new memoir “Unrequited Infatuations.”

Van Zandt talked to Fox News about the book but also what it meant to leave Bruce Springsteen and E Street Band behind.

“Leaving the E Street Band when I did, ended my life as I knew it,” Van Zandt said. “You can’t be reborn until you die. So that had to happen.”

Part of what led up to their big fight was Bruce Springsteen’s change in persona. The band released the albums “Born to Run” in 1975 and “Darkness of the Edge of Town” in 1978. Between those two albums, Van Zandt claimed that Springsteen’s look, persona, and attitude all changed.

“He completely, 180 degrees changed his identity. He’s fronting, he’s playing a character,” Van Zandt said. “That was the most important moment of his life because he stayed in that persona forever.”

This isn’t the first time Van Zandt has made such a claim about Bruce Springsteen. Back in January 2020, the guitarist talked to Rolling Stone about their early relationship, through the 70s and early 80s.

“He was a very different person the first 10 years I knew him. He wasn’t the world’s greatest entertainer, he was like one of those grunge guys with long hair that just stares at his shoes,” Van Zandt said. “This is when rock & roll was not a business yet. It was not hip. You didn’t get the girls by being in a rock band.”

Bruce Springsteen Appears in Steven Van Zandt’s Memoir More Than He Thought

Between Bruce Springsteen’s new “character” change and Van Zandt’s desire for a new direction in his career, he decided to leave E Street Band for good. Now, he realizes that decision was “my very public career suicide.”

“In the end, you come to the same conclusion, which is: I wish I could have done both. I wish I could have stayed in the band and done all of these things,” he said. “But that’s not really realistic.”

After finishing the book, and seeing how much Springsteen made it in there, Van Zandt decided to send him the manuscript. Bruce Springsteen didn’t suggest any changes be made to Van Zandt’s portrayal of him.

“He was in the book more than I planned on him being in the book because he turns out he’s a very big part of my life, you know?” Van Zandt said.

But this was more helpful for the guitarist than he realized, as was writing the memory in general.

“It really did serve as some kind of a bit of therapy,” he said. “It’s always painful going through the mistakes and saying, ‘I wish I could have done this. I could have done that.’”