Steve Van Zandt Visits Asbury Park School to “Teach Rock” Lessons in History

E Street Band member Steve Van Zandt went back to school in Asbury Park to “teach rock” to students at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Asbury Park yesterday (Feb. 27).

Van Zandt visited the students as part of his TeachRock learning curriculum as well as a partnership with the Bruce Springsteen Archives and & Center for American Music. During his lesson, the class dissected the lyrics to his song, “Sun City”–a 1985 song protesting apartheid in South Africa featuring Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, the Temptations, Run-DMC and Joey Ramone. Sixth Grade teacher Allison Hoffman was using TeachRock as part of her lesson plan for class, studying a moment in history when the Beatles refused to play for segregated audiences.

“Music and sports were really the best ways people got used to working together,” said Van Zandt at the head of the class, according to The Asbury Park Press. “Even the racist white supremacists people loved Motown. Everybody loved Black music and they loved their sports. When sports became integrated with Jackie Robinson and other Black athletes, they found out Black people were helping their teams. Sports and music helped integrate the country.”

He continued: “It’s a lazy way to have your identity to be based on hatred or hate, you know? It’s a lazy way to live. ‘Well, I don’t know who I am, but I know what I don’t like.’ It’s a lazy way of going through life and we have a lot of examples of that going on right now. The more intelligent person will say, ‘Yes they are different, but let’s learn about that and learn from it and make our country even greater.’ That’s been the story of America.”

Van Zandt, 73, is a Middletown native with ties to the New Jersey through the Asbury Park Music Scene with his work in the E Street Band, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, and The Sopranos. He told The Asbury Park Press he was inspired by the students.

“It’s amazing how smart these kids are,” said Van Zandt of the King Middle School kids. “They’re just smarter than us and faster than us. It just confirmed for us the reason we started this curriculum was because we need to create a new methodology of teaching for this generation. We got to do it. The old methods are not going to work for these kids.”

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