Steven Van Zandt is celebrating the 30th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from a South African prison by rereleasing his 1985 multi-artist protest LP, Sun City.
The album contains not just his protest anthem “Sun City,” but also Peter Gabriel’s “No More Apartheid,” and “Silver and Gold,” written by Bono along with Keith Richards and Ron Wood. It hasn’t been available on vinyl since its original release.
Van Zandt wrote “Sun City” in response to rock acts like Queen, Rod Stewart, Elton John, Linda Ronstadt, and Cher performing at the South African Sun City resort in violation of a cultural boycott of the country. He recruited an amazing lineup of guest artists to sing on the song “We Are the World”-style, including Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, Lou Reed, Jackson Browne, Pete Townshend, Hall and Oates, Herbie Hancock, Afrika Bambaataa, and several others.
Months after the single hit, he released the Sun City LP under the banner Artists United Against Apartheid. It also features the tracks “Let Me See Your I.D.” (featuring Miles Davis, Peter Wolf, Gil Scott-Heron, and Peter Garrett) and “The Struggle Continues” (featuring Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Stanley Jordan.)
The project was one of the first things that Van Zandt did after quitting the E Street Band. It was a decision that cost the guitarist quite a bit of money, since he missed out on the lucrative Born in the U.S.A. tour.
“Financially, it was apocalyptic,” Van Zandt told Rolling Stone earlier this year. “That said, we did take years off the life of the South African government. But is that worth losing all of my friends, all of my power base, all my juice, all my celebrity capital, to save a few lives? And you’ve got to say, ‘Yeah, sure. It was.’ “
The rerelease of Sun City is part of Van Zandt’s broader new box set, RockNRoll Rebel – The Early Work. It also contains remastered versions of Men Without Women (1982), Voice of America (1983), Freedom – No Compromise (1987), Revolution (1989), and Born Again Savage (1999).
He toured heavily in recent years with a reconstituted version of his band the Disciples of Soul, but he’s not sure if they’ll ever play together again after recent gigs in New York and Boston. “I hope I keep this band together forever,” he told Rolling Stone. “I’m not sure how I’m going to do that because if we go out with Bruce, that could be two years, and by then, who knows? The different guys in the band may find different bands.”
A future Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band tour has to be confirmed, but Springsteen has indicated many times in the past few months that they are cutting an album and plan on hitting the road when it’s done.