Songwriter Bert Berns Dies; Leaves Behind Rich Legacy

Bert Berns
Bert Berns
Rock & Roll/Soul pioneer Bert Berns died of a heart attack today. (December 31, 1967).

Bert Berns, 38, was born on November 8, 1929 in the Bronx New York, to white Jewish Russian immigrant parents.

As a young man he was highly influenced by the Latin sounds and African-American sounds around his neighborhood.

A trip to Cuba cemented his fondness for Latin rhythms which would appear in his future hits.

Berns wrote a number of hits for the Mellin publishing company over a seven-year span out of the famous Brill Building in New York.

Jarmels – A Little Bit of Soap

One of the earliest hits Berns composed was “A Little Bit of Soap,” which became a hit for The Jarmels in 1961.

A year later, Berns would pen a smash hit for the Isley Brothers titled “Twist and Shout,” which was coauthored by songwriter Phil Medley.

When songwriting team Lieber and Stoller stopped producing at Atlantic in 1963, Berns took the reigns as staff producer.

At Atlantic, Berns wrote or produced hit records by Wilson Pickett, Barbara Lewis (“Baby I’m Yours,” “Be My Baby,” The Drifters (“Under the Boardwalk”), Solomon Burke (“Cry to Me“) and others.

Bert Berns and Atlantic Executives
Bert Berns and Atlantic Executives
In 1965, Berns launched Bang Records! The label name was an acronym for the partners at the label, which included Burns, as well as Atlantic executives Ahmet Ertegun, Nesuhi Ertegun and Gerald “Jerry” Wexler.

Acts on Bang Records included a young Neil Diamond, The Strangeloves (“I Want Candy”), (The McCoys (“Hang on Sloopy”) “ and others.

In addition to cranking out hit records for the pop acts on Bang Records, Berns stayed true to his R&B roots as the owner of Shout Records, which specialized in releasing Soul music.

Erma Franklin – Piece Of My Heart

Shout experienced success by cutting records on Freddie Scott (“Are You Lonely For Me Baby”) and Erma Franklin, who recorded the Bern penned-single, “Piece of My Heart,” which was remade into a hit by Janis Joplin.

Freddie Scott - Shout Records
Freddie Scott - Shout Records
“Bert Berns and I had know each other for a long, long time. I knew him as a guitarist,” Freddie Scott said of Berns. “After I left the Columbia situation, he said ‘why don’t you come over here’ and I did. Bert was a very nice, quiet, easy-going guy. ”

In acts of 2009 Bert Berns was nominated to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

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