The Legacy of Bert Berns

The purpose of this blog post is to promote awareness of the inherent genius of the late Bert Berns. He was born in New York in 1929 and died tragically of a heart attack at just 38 years of age. But in his short career, Berns left an indelible mark on popular music; he made fifty-one pop chart singles in seven years and became one of the most successful songwriters of the 1960s.

Recordings  – There is an interesting catalog of Bert Berns that spans three volumes from Ace Records, UK.

Book

A gem of a book you will want to sink your teeth into is, Here Comes The Night: The Dark Soul Of Bert Berns and the Dirty Business Of Rhythm and Blues researched (16 years) and written by authoritative music journalist Joel Selvin.

Here Comes the Night is both a definitive account of the golden age of rhythm and blues of the early ’60s and the harrowing, ultimately tragic story of songwriter and record producer Bert Berns, whose meteoric career was fueled by his pending doom. His heart damaged by rheumatic fever as a youth, Berns was not expected to live to see 21. Although his name is little remembered today, Berns worked alongside all the greats of the era—Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler, Burt Bacharach, Phil Spector, Gerry Goffin and Carole King, anyone who was anyone in New York rhythm and blues. In seven quick years, he went from nobody to the top of the pops—producer of monumental r&b classics, songwriter of “Twist and Shout,” “My Girl Sloopy,” “Piece of My Heart,” and others.

This book serves as a major source for the documentary about Bert Berns mentioned  below. Joel Selvin wrote the narration for the film.

Documentary

I have a great deal of respect and admiration for Bob Sarles. He has captured on film many moving testaments about the important music industry giants of our time. He has an incredible knack for highlighting people who deserve our focus and attention. I’m grateful for his work.

Bang! The Bert Berns Story – Music meets the Mob in this biographical documentary, narrated by Steven Van Zandt, about the life and career of Bert Berns, the most important songwriter and record producer from the sixties that you never heard of. His hits include “Twist and Shout”, “Hang On Sloopy”, “Here Comes The Night” and “Piece Of My Heart.” He helped launch the careers of Van Morrison and Neil Diamond and produced some of the greatest soul music ever made. Filmmaker Brett Berns brings his late father’s story to the screen through interviews with those who knew him best and rare performance footage. Included in the film are interviews with Ronald Isley, Ben E. King, Solomon Burke, Van Morrison, Keith Richards and Paul McCartney.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Award

Bert Berns was inducted as a non-performer and given the Ahmet Ertegun Lifetime Achievement Award with the 2016 class to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Broadway Musical 2016-2017

The Piece of My Heart, The Bert Berns Story, is slated to open as a Broadway Musical.  Steven Van Zandt and Paul Shaffer, along with Maureen Van Zandt and Joe Grano (Jersey Boys), will serve as lead producers. It was also announced that Mr. Van Zandt will serve as the show’s musical director.

Piece of My Heart tells Bert’s triumphant and tragic story through the eyes of Jessie, the daughter he never knew. Experience what Rolling Stone calls “one of the great untold stories of rock and roll.” This world premiere musical pulls you into a journey of discovery told through his chart-topping hits (and some rare gems) including “Twist and Shout,” “I Want Candy,” “Hang on Sloopy,” and the immortal title song, “Piece of My Heart.” Meet the man you never knew through the music you’ve loved for years.

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