Monday, June 18, 2018

BANG: The Bert Berns Story review

I've looked at thousands of 45's over the years while digging around record stores in various cities.  Those yellow-labeled BANG records releases always stood out like a bright beacon and who could resist that great logo!  It's many years later and I'm finally learning the whole story behind the man that started it...Bert Berns.  He defied the odds even at an early age by battling and surviving rheumatic fever although the damage to his heart did lead to his early passing at only 38 years old.  The story in between though is one to behold.

My life tends to be surrounded by music so it's no surprise the books I read or documentaries I watch usually revolve around that topic.  A mark of a great documentary or book is one I take notes of things to look up and discover (or re-discover) later.  The amount of songs I didn't realize Bert wrote and produced is staggering.  Immediately, I was making mental notes of songs to look up by The Jarmels, The Exciters, Garnet Mimms, The Drifters, Solomon Burke, Freddie Scott, Erma Franklin (and yes I still prefer her original version of "Piece Of My Heart"), The Isley Brothers and so many more.  I realized how important his music was to the British bands looking for top American material with The Beatles covering "Twist & Shout", The Rolling Stones covering "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love", The Animals covering "Baby Let Me Take You Home", etc.

At the center of it all was Bert's emotional and gut-wrenching lyrics often disguised in a pop/rock/r&b radio hit.  The honest pain of the lyrics brought out the performance of a lifetime from the artists singing them.  He could speak to the musicians on a musician level and a singer on an emotional performance level and get the best out of all of them.  His songs defined an era that seemed to pass when he did. 

This documentary opened my eyes to the magnitude of importance his songs, production work and record labels had in music history.  The impact is still felt today.  This is a story that I'm so glad has been told.  Not enough has been said about Bert's impact and hopefully that will change now.  Rent or purchase a copy of BANG and be prepared to be knocked out!  The best advice I could give is to keep a notepad handy to write down all of the songs you'll want to research afterwards!