- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 17, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) - The night busted open in New York City as Bruce Springsteen and other Rock and Roll Hall of Famers helped Steven Van Zandt celebrate his Big Man of the Year award.

Darlene Love, Elvis Costello and Dion were among the performers Tuesday night at a rollicking benefit for Little Kids Rock, an initiative that rescues music education amid public school budget cuts.

Springsteen had some fun while presenting the award _ gleefully detailing their roommate days and Van Zandt’s lack of housekeeping skills.

“What a liar,” Van Zandt retorted with a grin.

Amid the musical blowout, Van Zandt and the other stars discussed the arts’ role in fueling young minds and shaping character _ tasks accomplished through the thousands of musical instruments and the lessons made possible by Little Kids Rock.

Costello, before going onstage, waxed eloquently on the “mundane and magical” aspects of music, and its transformative effects. E Street drummer Max Weinberg reminisced about his high school marching band.

Van Zandt said in an interview with The Associated Press before the show that children might see a musical career as glamorous and fun _ “and it is.”

But it also “requires a lot of work, just like any other craft. … You need discipline and you need willpower and focus. And … a lot of hours put into it,” he said.

So people might be surprised to know that Van Zandt, while concentrating on a multitude of parallel careers, can go three years without playing a guitar, and then pick it up again in a week or two.

“When you’ve been playing so long, you don’t really forget how to play,” he said.

“Well, that’s not a good example for the kids, though,” he conceded, laughing. “That’s just me. … `You kids: Don’t do what I do _ do what I say.’”

In the fledgling days of their 47-year friendship, Springsteen said, “we’d spend our afternoons in the Village, sitting in front of a guitar player, watching every move of his hands, then go back to the basement of Steve’s house and try to get our guitars to make that sound” _ sometimes resulting in a “screeching, horrific noise.”

“But to have somebody to make that noise with … when you really needed to be understood _ that was something; that was something.”

The charity named the award for E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons in 2009, two years before he died. It was “very close to Clarence’s heart,” Springsteen said.

Clemons’ nephew, Jake, who now tours with E Street, lent heartfelt sax accompaniment to Little Kids Rock musicians from Franklin L. Williams Middle School in Jersey City, N.J.

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