Is Ronnie Van Zant Related to Steven? The Truth Behind the Rock Legends

Ronnie Van Zant and Steven Van Zandt are two of the most influential rock musicians of their generation. They both rose to fame in the 1970s as members of iconic bands: Ronnie as the lead singer and songwriter of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Steven as the guitarist and mandolin player of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. They also both had successful solo careers and ventured into acting, with Ronnie appearing in American Flyers (1985) and Steven starring in The Sopranos (1999-2007) and Lilyhammer (2012-2014).

But are they related? Many fans have wondered if the two rock legends share a family connection, given their similar last names and musical styles. The answer, however, is no. Ronnie Van Zant and Steven Van Zandt are not related by blood or marriage.

The Origins of Their Last Names

One of the reasons why some people might think that Ronnie and Steven are related is because they both have Dutch-sounding last names. However, this is a coincidence, as they both adopted their surnames from different sources.

Ronnie Van Zant was born Ronald Wayne Van Zant on January 15, 1948, in Jacksonville, Florida. His biological father was Vince Borello, but he never knew him. His mother, Mary Henrietta Lento, remarried in 1957 to William Brewster Van Zant, a truck driver who adopted Ronnie and his siblings. Ronnie took his stepfather’s last name as his own, and later became known as Ronnie Van Zant

Steven Van Zandt was born Steven Lento on November 22, 1950, in Winthrop, Massachusetts. His biological father was also named Steven Lento, but he left the family when Steven was young. His mother, Mary Lento, remarried in 1957 to William Brewster Van Zandt, a lawyer who adopted Steven and his brother. Steven took his stepfather’s last name as his own, and later became known as Steven Van Zandt

As you can see, Ronnie and Steven had different biological fathers and different stepfathers, who both happened to have the same last name of Van Zandt. This is a common Dutch surname that means “from Zandt”, a town in the Netherlands However, there is no evidence that Ronnie’s and Steven’s stepfathers were related to each other or to any other famous Van Zandts, such as the country music duo The Van Zandts or the actor James Van Der Beek.

The Friendship Between Ronnie and Steven

Although Ronnie and Steven were not related by blood or marriage, they did share a friendship based on their mutual admiration and respect for each other’s music. They met in the early 1970s, when both Lynyrd Skynyrd and the E Street Band were touring extensively and playing in similar venues. They became fans of each other’s work and often exchanged compliments and advice.

According to Steven, he was impressed by Ronnie’s songwriting skills and vocal abilities. He said that Ronnie was “one of the greatest singers of all time” and that he “wrote some of the most beautiful melodies ever” He also praised Ronnie for being “a great leader” who “kept his band together” despite the challenges they faced

According to Ronnie’s brother Johnny, who replaced him as the lead singer of Lynyrd Skynyrd after his death, Ronnie was also fond of Steven’s music and personality. He said that Ronnie “loved Bruce Springsteen” and that he “thought Steve was a great guy” He also recalled that Ronnie once gave Steven a hat that he wore on stage as a sign of friendship

Unfortunately, their friendship was cut short by tragedy. On October 20, 1977, Ronnie died in a plane crash along with two other members of Lynyrd Skynyrd: guitarist Steve Gaines and backup singer Cassie Gaines. They were on their way to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for a concert when their plane ran out of fuel and crashed into a wooded area near Gillsburg, Mississippi. They were only 29 years old.

Steven was devastated by the news of Ronnie’s death. He said that he felt “a tremendous loss” and that he “cried for days”. He also paid tribute to Ronnie by wearing his hat on stage during several concerts with the E Street Band. He later wrote a song called “I Am A Patriot” in honor of Ronnie and his patriotic spirit.

The Legacy of Ronnie and Steven

Ronnie Van Zant and Steven Van Zandt are both remembered as rock legends who left an indelible mark on the history of music. They both influenced countless artists and fans with their distinctive sounds, styles, and messages. They both embodied the spirit of rock and roll: rebellious, passionate, and authentic.

Ronnie Van Zant is widely regarded as one of the greatest singers and songwriters of southern rock, a genre that blends rock, blues, country, and soul. He wrote and sang some of the most iconic songs of the 1970s, such as “Free Bird”, “Sweet Home Alabama”, “Simple Man”, and “Gimme Three Steps”. He also led Lynyrd Skynyrd to become one of the most successful and influential bands of all time, selling over 30 million albums worldwide and earning a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.

Steven Van Zandt is widely regarded as one of the most versatile and talented musicians and actors of his generation. He played a vital role in the E Street Band, contributing to some of Bruce Springsteen’s most acclaimed albums, such as Born to Run (1975), Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978), The River (1980), and Born in the U.S.A. (1984). He also had a successful solo career as Little Steven, releasing several albums that showcased his diverse influences, such as rock, soul, reggae, and garage. He also became a prominent activist, organizing the anti-apartheid project Sun City (1985) and founding the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation (2007). He also proved his acting skills by playing memorable roles in The Sopranos and Lilyhammer, earning several awards and nominations.


Is Ronnie Van Zant related to Steven? The answer is no. They were not related by blood or marriage, but they were friends who admired each other’s music. They both made a lasting impact on the world of rock and roll with their talent, charisma, and courage. They both deserve our respect and admiration for their achievements and legacy.

Doms Desk

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