Friday is Boss’ Day: Little Steven and “Sun City”

Little Steven, left, discusses the “Sun City” video with director Jonathan Demme (check out Lou Reed, way in the background)

Steve Van Zandt officially left the E Street Band in 1984, and just about a year later he emerged with an angry all-star screed, “Sun City.”  The single and album was credited to Artists United Against Apartheid and the Sun City of the title was a popular resort in South Africa where many international artists performed since its opening in 1979.

Van Zandt’s activist group pledged “I’m not gonna play Sun City” in the title song – the 49 performers on the album included Bruce Springsteen, U2, Pete Townshend, Peter Gabriel, Run DMC, Bob Dylan and others.  The album featured eight songs, including three different mixes of the title track.

Apartheid was the government-sanctioned racial segregation practiced by the South African government.  Rock stars had protested it before – notably, Gram Parsons refused to travel and play there with the Byrds in the late 1960s.  But Van Zandt’s “Sun City” helped focus the attention of Americans, and the world, on the condition more successfully than ever before.  Beginning in 1990, apartheid began to fall apart – thanks in part to pressure from other countries, and the sacrifices of people like Nelson Mandela.

Sun City the album reached No. 31 on the pop charts and was issued on CD in 1993, but quickly went out of print.  We have here the 45 single version of “Sun City,” as well as the single mix of “Let Me See Your I.D.,” a song which features rap and jazz artists Gil Scott-Heron, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Miles Davis and Duke Bootee.

MP3: “Sun City”

MP3: “Let Me See Your I.D.” (Street Mix)

2 Responses to “Friday is Boss’ Day: Little Steven and “Sun City””

  1. Hey guys, just wanted to let you know I borrowed that Springsteen/Temptations shot for a kinda fun, kinda ridiculous Sun City story I wrote up for my website. I put full “found on” credit, with a linkback, at bottom: http://www.thrillist.com/music/nation/numbers-of-the-beast

    Best,
    David Blend

  2. That’s cool, David. It was a publicity handout for “Sun City.”

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