Bang! The Bert Berns Story
$12 General Admission
Music meets the Mob in this biographical documentary, narrated by Stevie Van Zandt, about the life and career of Bert Berns, one of the most important songwriters and record producers of the sixties. His hits include “Twist and Shout,” “Hang On Sloopy,” “Brown-Eyed Girl,” “Under the Boardwalk,” “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love,” “Cry Baby,” “Tell Him, “Cry to Me,” “Here Comes the Night,” and “Piece of My Heart.” He launched the careers of Van Morrison and Neil Diamond, and was the only man of his time to achieve the trifecta of songwriter, producer, and label chief. Filmmaker Brett Bern’s brings his late father’s inspirational 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, Solomon Burke, Ben E. King, Van Morrison, Keith Richards, and Paul McCartney.
Born in the Bronx during the Great Depression to Jewish immigrants, a bout with childhood rheumatic fever damaged Berns’s heart – creating a sense of urgency and instilling a relentless and impassioned drive to make the most of his life. His love for the Mambo took him to Havana before the Cuban Revolution, where he converted a whorehouse into a nightclub and ran guns for Castro’s rebels. Upon his return to New York’s Brill Building / 1650 Broadway milieu, Berns began a meteoric seven-year run that saw him bring Latin rhythms into rock and roll and become one of the founding fathers of Uptown Soul music. Atlantic Records made him their staff producer in 1963 and he formed his own BANG Records label in 1965. Berns was also the first American producer to work in London during the British Invasion. He infused his songs with autobiographical lyrics and produced hundreds of sessions. His ambition was so great that, from the ages of 31 to 38, he created 51 pop chart hits before succumbing to his damaged heart on December 30, 1967.
The Bert Berns saga is not just another feel-good immigrant son’s success story. It is also the harrowing tale of fighting Jew who surrounded himself with some of the most feared men in the Italian mafia and fought epic battles to maintain control over his destiny. Following his untimely death, Bert Berns was blackballed by the industry he helped to create and whitewashed from its history books.
Fifty years later, his legacy has been resurrected through a multimedia effort that includes the critically-acclaimed biography Here Comes the Night: The Dark Soul of Bert Berns and the Dirty Business of Rhythm & Blues; the Broadway-bound musical Piece of My Heart which premiered Off Broadway in 2014; and this documentary – all of which cleared the way for Bert Berns’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.