Even if you don’t know the name of Bert Berns, chances are you know the songs he wrote (“Twist and Shout,” “I Want Candy,” “Hang On, Sloopy,” “Piece of My Heart”), produced (“Under the Boardwalk,” “Baby I’m Yours,” “Brown-Eyed Girl,” “Here Comes the Night”) and oversaw as head of Bang Records (“Cherry, Cherry,” “Solitary Man” and the rest of Neil Diamond’s earliest recordings). Though Berns died in the final days of 1967 at just 38 years of age, a year hasn’t gone by since when his songs haven’t been recorded and played. He finally has gotten his due in recent years with Joel Selvin’s biography Here Comes the Night, the off-Broadway bio-musical Piece of My Heart, and most notably with an acclaimed documentary BANG! The Bert Berns Story, directed by Bert’s son Brett Berns and Bob Sarles. Earlier this year, the hard-hitting film narrated by Little Steven Van Zandt received a digital-only soundtrack release. Now, that album is on the way from Legacy Recordings in a much more fitting format: vinyl. BANG! The Bert Berns Story: Official Soundtrack arrives as a 2-LP set on December 8, featuring many of the artist who thrived under Berns’ imprimatur.
An outcast from a young age, Berns raced against the clock. Rheumatic fever as a child led to the heart condition that would take his life, but he stuffed his 38 years with enough living for a couple of lifetimes. The sound of his records, fusing soul, blues, rock, and pop, owed a considerable debt to his fascination with African-American blues and soul as well as Latin dance rhythms.
The 18 tracks on this soundtrack all pulse with the energy and eclecticism of his native New York City in the 1960s. Among its selections are the original “Piece of My Heart” performed by Erma Franklin and the roof-raising cover by Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin; as well as famous selections from Van Morrison (“Chick-a-Boom,” “Brown Eyed Girl,” and Them’s “Here Comes the Night” and “Baby Please Don’t Go”), The Isley Brothers (“Twist and Shout”), Solomon Burke (“Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”), The Strangeloves (“I Want Candy”), The Exciters (“Tell Him”), and Garnet Mimms and the Enchanters (the original “Cry Baby”). Lesser-known tunes flesh out the Berns story, including Freddie Scott’s “Am I Grooving You,” Bobby Harris’ “Mr. Success,” and Kenny Hamber’s “Show Me Your Money.” Only Neil Diamond (who declined to participate in the documentary, as well, a likely result of lingering – and perhaps justified – resentments against Berns) is conspicuous by his absence.
BANG! The Bert Berns Story: Official Soundtrack chronicles Berns’ life through his electrifying art, and proves his immense contribution to the sound of rock and soul. Look for it on December 8 on vinyl from Legacy Recordings!
- Piece of My Heart – Erma Franklin
- A Little Bit of Soap – The Jarmels
- Tell Him – The Exciters
- Twist and Shout – The Isley Brothers
- Cry Baby – Garnet Mimms and The Enchanters
- Show Me Your Monkey – Kenny Hamber
- Baby, Please Don’t Go – Them
- You May Be Holding My Baby – The Pussycats
- Everybody Needs Somebody to Love – Solomon Burke
- Here Comes the Night – Them
- I Want Candy – The Strangeloves
- Are You Lonely For Me Baby – Freddie Scott
- Mr. Success – Bobby Harris
- Chick-a-Boom – Van Morrison
- Hang on Sloopy – The McCoys
- Cry to Me – Freddie Scott
- Brown-Eyed Girl – Van Morrison
- Am I Grooving You – Freddie Scott
- Heart Be Still – Lorraine Ellison
- Piece of My Heart – Big Brother and the Holding Company feat. Janis Joplin