Bruce Springsteen made a surprise appearance at the New Jersey Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Sunday night to introduce his longtime guitarist and friend Steven Van Zandt.
Van Zandt was one of 17 people who were welcomed as members of the 2017 class – a group which includes Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons as well as Blondie lead singer Debbie Harry who confessed that she is sad when she misses tomato-ripening season in New Jersey because of touring and has always wanted to name an album ‘Jersey Tomato”.
Springsteen told the audience that he knew he had found a kindred spirit in his future bandmate shortly after meeting him. “One look at Steve, I knew we both drunk the same Kool-Aid,” joked Springsteen as he paid tribute to their friendship. Springsteen himself was inducted in the hall’s inaugural class back in 2008, along with another one of New Jersey’s most beloved sons, Frank Sinatra.
“Steve is one of the greatest living white soul performers we have,” Springsteen said and then poked fun at his friend, calling Van Zandt, “the sole creator of the male babushka” and “the only man I know besides Hugh Hefner who has figured out how to spend his whole life in his pyjamas. Though born in Boston, Massachusetts, there is no purer distillation of the Jersey ethos than Little Stevie Van Zandt.”
The two then joined forces on stage to perform “I Don’t Want To Go Home” (a song Van Zandt sang on the first Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes album, released in 1976), trading vocals and eventually welcoming the entire class of inductees along with many of their family members onstage to close the show.
“We were lucky to grow up when we did,” said Van Zandt crediting a culture of teenage leisure with allowing him to join a band and eventually connect with Springsteen.
“We did the impossible: We made New Jersey hip,” quipped Van Zandt. Then, in reference to his surprising second career as an actor in the hit HBO series “The Sopranos,” in which he played mobster Silvio Dante, Van Zandt added, “I had the experience of witnessing New Jersey become fashionable twice in one lifetime. Thank you, New Jersey; you have been very, very good to me.”
Other 2017 Hall of Fame inductees include: astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly; politician Millicent Fenwick; nurse Clara Maass; athletes Al Leiter and Carli Lloyd; publisher Steve Forbes; businessmen Joe Buckelew and Jon Hanson; author Harlan Coben; Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Anna Quindlen; and TV “Cake Boss” Buddy Valastro.