"To sound that black," Steven Van Zandt said as he inducted the Rascals into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, "you had to be Italian." Dressed in a Little Lord Fauntleroy top and tie that spoofed the stage costumes the band wore early in their career when they were known as the Young Rascals, Mr. Van Zandt impressed at least one viewer with his humor and New Jersey charms.
David Chase has said that he got the idea to cast Mr. Van Zandt in "The Sopranos" after seeing him induct the Rascals on TV.
Next week, Mr. Van Zandt returns the favor. The Rascals— the New Jersey rock and soul group that scored a string of hit singles, including "Good Lovin'," ""Groovin'" and "I Ain't Gonna Eat Our My Heart Anymore" before disbanding in 1972 — will get a fresh start of their own thanks to Mr. Van Zandt.
The four original members of the band — Felix Cavaliere, Eddie Brigati, Gene Cornish and Dino Danelli — will perform in public together for the first time in 40 years in a series of multi-media concert events conceived of, produced and directed by Mr. Van Zandt.
With lighting and film projection designed by Marc Brickman, of Pink Floyd's The Wall fame, the Rascals' "Once Upon A Dream" event, which combines a full-length concert by the band, interspersed with archival film clips, live narration and dramatic re-creations on film of telling moments in their careers, will be staged at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, N.Y. on Dec. 13 –15 and Dec 20 - 22.
"It's part rock and roll concert, part Broadway play and part movie," says Mr. Van Zandt, who adds that he has been a fan ever since he saw the Rascals live for the first time —"at a roller rink in Keyport, New Jersey. It was a battle of the bands and the winner got to open that night for the Rascals."
Then a teenager, his band won.
Like his collaboration with Mr. Chase on "Not Fade Away," orchestrating the Rascals reunion is another of Mr. Van Zandt's numerous efforts to keep the music he loves alive. Besides touring with the E Street Band, he oversees his Undergound Garage classic rock and roll radio network, and he is working on an ambitious program to develop a curriculum to teach the history of rock 'n' roll in public schools nationwide through his Rock and Roll High School Foundation
"I see it all as part of my life's work," he says. "I want to make sure this music is accessible to generations of kids to come."