Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Heart and Soul of Bert Berns

This month marks the 38th anniversary of the passing of legendary songwriter and record producer Bert Russell Berns who died of heart failure on December 30, 1967 at the age of 38. Bert Berns produced an amazing body of work in a relatively brief period of time between 1960 and 1967 creating a catalog containing some of the greatest hit songs and records ever produced in the history of pop/soul music.

A native of New York [born in the Bronx on Nov. 8, 1929], Bert Berns was the creative force behind such timeless pop/soul classics as "Twist and Shout" [The Isley Brothers, The Beatles], "Here Comes The Night" [Van Morrison's early group, Them] "Brown Eyed Girl" [Van Morrison], and The Drifters "Under The Boardwalk". Any one of these gems would be an impressive credit for any songwriter or producer.

But that's just for starters: Berns also wrote "Hang On Sloopy"
among his numerous other classic pop and soul hits.

As a songwriter and producer, Berns was a master at getting great vocals out of artists and his songs express the deepest of feelings. Freddie Scott's "Are You Lonely For Me Baby", Solomon Burke's deep soul sermon "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love", Erma Franklin's pleading "Piece of My Heart" [the same song Janis Joplin covered], the Garnet Mimms hit "Cry Baby" and Solomon Burke's "Cry To Me".

Bert Berns songs dealt with the tough emotions of life reflecting an essence of searching for something that isn't all that easy to find.

Bert Berns was a craftsman.

A true creative genius.

He was also an astute talent scout. A real hustler who left a job working as a staff producer at Atlantic Records to start his own label called Bang Records which is where he produced the very first hits of Neil Diamond and where he also signed the great Van Morrison.

Bert Berns is one of early rock's forgotten treasures.

A foundational figure who has been inexplicably overlooked.

That should not be the case in light of the enormous contributions Bert Berns provided to our musical and cultural heritage.

Bert Berns legacy belongs in, and is long overdue for induction into, The Songwriters Hall of Fame and The Rock 'n Roll Hall Of Fame.

Sadly, today's monolithic music industry has no interest in recognizing or developing the potential of visionary songwriters and producers such as Bert Berns. It's hard to imagine such a brilliant and creative spirit ever feeling welcomed again in the music business.

Bert Russel Berns was a truly remarkable talent whose songs and productions helped define an unforgettable era in pop/soul music.

Universal Music along with Doug Morris released a tribute album in 2002 called The Heart and Soul of Bert Berns, which is essential.

You can discover more on the music and life of Bert Berns at his home page Well worth the visit.

Take a look at his site's Discography and Press pages. You'll be amazed and deeply impressed at what this brilliant and creative genius accomplished as a dynamic songwriter and producer in his all too limited time in this world. It will simply astound you.

Talking Points: It should be noted here on this date especially, December 8, 2005, the 25th anniversary of John Lennon's tragic death, that if John Lennon were alive today, he would likely be the foremost voice in support of recognizing Bert Berns contributions. After all, Twist and Shout, written by Bert Berns, defined early Beatle John Lennon as the definitive raw voice in rock for his times.

Frank Trainor


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