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Rutgers Commencement: From 'Miami Steve' To Sopranos To Dr. Van Zandt

Van Zandt
Van Zandt Photo Credit: COURTESY: Frantogian / INSET: Manuel Martinez Perez

Call him "Miami Steve" or "Little Steven" -- or even Sylvio Dante, if y'like. Rutgers University will call living rock-and-roll legend Steven Van Zandt doctor at its 251st anniversary commencement on May 14.

Van Zandt -- known as the E Street Band's first genuine lead guitarist, a prominent mobster on "The Sopranos," the star/co-writer/executive producer of Netflix drama "Lilyhammer," a co-founder of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes and the host of Sirius XM's wildly popular weekly "Underground Garage" -- will be the commencement speaker at High Point Solutions Stadium on the Busch Campus in Piscataway.

Rutgers officials will bestow an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree on the 66-year-old musician, performer, songwriter, arranger, music producer, music supervisor, TV producer, actor, director, Broadway producer, TV and film composer, live event producer, international disc jockey, activist, historian, teacher -- and member, with his fellow E Streets -- of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, who was born Steven Lento to parents with roots in Southern Italy.

There was no immediate word on whether one of his bosses, THE Boss, Bruce Springsteen planned to attend.

Van Zandt, who'd been playing with the Jukes after various gigs over the years with Springsteen, officially joined the E Street Band on July 20, 1975 -- the first show of the "Born to Run" tour.

He had his own band -- Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul -- during Springsteen's break from the E Streets, and released four more solo albums. He's been remastering those, as well as assembling new songs, for release this year.

He and his wife, actress Maureen (Santoro) Van Zandt, who played the same role on "The Sopranos," were married in New York City, with Springsteen as the best man.

Officiating: Little Richard.

Percy Sledge sang his classic "When A Man Loves a Woman" at the reception.

Individual collegiate convocations and receptions at Rutgers begin Wednesday, May 10 and will be held through Friday, May 26.

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