Who Was Bert Berns? Find Out in the New Documentary "BANG! The Bert Berns Story

via Press Release with Additional Contributions by VVN Music

Over the course of the next few months, BANG! The Bert Berns Story is set to screen for multiple film festival audiences in the US, Canada, UK and Europe. The biographical documentary, which debuted at SXSW this spring, tells the story of one of the most important songwriters, producers and label chiefs of the 1960s. Until quite recently, Bert Berns had been relegated to obscurity, his very existence known only among the cognoscenti of hardcore record collectors and old school music industry veterans.

The film was produced and directed by Brett Berns, Bert’s son, and co-directed with Bob Sarles who served as editor. The younger Berns is a lead producer of the Broadway-bound musical Piece of My Heart – The Bert Berns Story, which ran Off-Broadway in 2014. Sarles is a Primetime Emmy nominated film and television editor and documentary filmmaker. He co-edited the Peabody Award winning documentary series Moon Shot, the ABC documentary The Story of Fathers & Sons, and directed and edited Sweet Blues: A Film About Mike Bloomfield; Fly Jefferson Airplane; John Lee Hooker: Come And See About Me; Feed Your Head: The Psychedelic Era and Soulsville.

Stevie Van Zandt, who inducted Berns into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year, provides the film’s narration which was written by Joel Selvin, author of Here Comes the Night: The Dark Soul of Bert Berns and the Dirty Business of Rhythm and Blues (Counterpoint Press). BANG! The Bert Berns Story chronicles the brief life of a musical genius whose hits included Twist and Shout, Hang On Sloopy, Here Comes The Night, A Little Bit of Soap, Tell Him and Piece of My Heart. Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, Van Morrison, Solomon Burke, Ben E. King, Cissy Houston, Ronald Isley, Andrew Loog Oldham and Wilson Pickett are among those who appear in the film, produced by Michael B. Borofsky and Brooks Arthur with Sid Ganis as Executive Producer.

Berns, unlike his music business contemporaries, was equally at home producing American soul artists in New York as he was working in London during the height of the British Invasion where his songs were covered by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Animals and Them. His relationship with the mob made him a controversial figure even before his untimely death in 1967 at the age of 38. He founded Bang Records, which was acknowledged as the hottest label in the business and the home of hits by Neil Diamond, The McCoys, Strangeloves and Van Morrison. Bang’s Shout subsidiary label yielded hits for Freddie Scott, Erma Franklin and other R&B artists.

The film represents the culmination of a ten-year struggle by Berns’ children, led by Brett to bring their father’s story to the screen. This run of film festival screenings will provide audiences with insight into the life and work of “the greatest songwriter and record man you never heard of.”


The hits of Bert Berns (aka Bert Russell):
  • A Little Bit of Soap - Jarmels (1961 / #12 Pop / #7 R&B)
  • Cry to Me - Solomon Burke (1962 / #44 Pop / #5 R&B)
  • Down in the Valley - Solomon Burke (1962 / #71 Pop / #19 AC / #20 R&B)
  • Twist & Shout - Isley Brothers (1962 / #17 Pop / #2 R&B)
  • Tell Him - Exciters (1962 / #4 Pop / #5 R&B)
  • Killer Joe - Rocky Fellers (1963 / #16 Pop)
  • Cry Baby - Garnet Mimms (1963 / #30 Pop / #11 R&B)
  • His Kiss - Betty Harris (1964 / #89 Pop / #15 R&B)
  • Twist & Shout - Beatles (1964 / #2 Pop)
  • My Girl Sloopy - Vibrations (1964 / #26 Pop / #10 R&B)
  • That's When It Hurts - Ben E. King (1964 / #63 Pop / #17 R&B)
  • Goodbye Baby (Baby Goodbye) - Solomon Burke (1964 / #33 Pop / #8 R&B)
  • One-Way Love - Drifters (1964 / #56 Pop / #12 R&B)
  • Everybody Needs Somebody to Love (1964 / #58 Pop / #4 R&B)
  • Look Away - Garnet Mims (1964 / #73 Pop / #14 R&B)
  • Here Comes the Night - Them (1965 / #24 Pop)
  • I Want Candy - Strangeloves (1965 / #11 Pop)
  • Hang on Sloopy - McCoys (1965 / #1 Pop)
  • Hang on Sloopy - Ramsey Lewis Trio (1965 / #11 Pop / #18 AC / #6 R&B)
  • I'll Take Good Care of You - Garnet Mimms (1966 / #30 Pop / #15 R&B)
  • Are You Lonely For Me - Freddie Scott (1966 / #39 Pop / #1 R&B)
  • Piece of My Heart - Erma Franklin (1967 / #62 Pop / #10 R&B)
  • Piece of My Heart - Big Brother & the Holding Company (1968 / #12 Pop)
  • Little Bit of Soap - Nigel Olsson (1979 / #34 Pop / #9 AC)
  • Baby Come On Home - Led Zeppelin (1993 / #4 Rock)
  • Piece of My Heart - Faith Hill (1994 / #1 Country)
Scheduled Film Festival screenings for Bang! The Bert Berns Story:
  • 09/22 - Athens International Film Festival (International + European Premiere) -7:30 PM/Odeon Opera 2
  • 09/23 - Athens International Film Festival - 7:30 PM/Danaos 2
  • 09/24 - Boston Film Festival - 12:30 PM/Boston Pubic Library
  • 09/24 - Doc ‘N Roll Film Festival UK - 2 PM/Dukes at Komedia, Brighton
  • 09/26 - Milwaukee Film Festival - 7 PM/Times Cinema
  • 09/28 - Athens International Film Festival - 7:00 PM/Odeon Opera 2
  • 09/30 - Milwaukee Film Festival - 12:30 PM/Oriental Theater #2
  • 10/01 - Vancouver International Film Festival - 8:15 PM/VIFF @ Vancity Theatre
  • 10/02 - Vancouver International Film Festival - 3:15 PM/VIFF @ Rio Theatre
  • 10/08 - Queen City Film Festival - Cumberland MD - 4:05 PM/Cumberland Ramada
  • 10/10 - Buffalo International Film Festival - 5:30 PM/North Park Theatre
  • 10/11 - Vancouver International Film Festival - 6:00 PM/VIFF @ International Village 8
  • 10/11 - Mill Valley Film Festival - 6:15 PM/Sequoia 2
  • 10/13 - Mill Valley Film Festival - 8:45 PM/Century Larkspur
  • 10/27 - San Diego Jewish Film Festival - 7 PM/Lawrence Family JCC

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