donderdag 9 januari 2014
The music of Bert Berns
Born in the Bronx, New York City, to Russian Jewish immigrants, Berns contracted rheumatic fever as a child, an illness that would mark the rest of his life. Turning to music, he found consonance in the sounds of his African American and Latino neighbors. As a young man, Berns danced in mambo nightclubs, and made his way to Havana before the Cuban Revolution.
Shortly after his return from Cuba, Berns began a seven-year run from an obscure Brill Building songwriter to the chief of his own record labels.
His first hit record was "A Little Bit of Soap", performed by The Jarmels in 1961
One year later, the Isley Brothers recorded "Twist and Shout", written by Berns and Phil Medley.
During these years, Berns wrote and produced records for a wide range of labels, including Wand, United Artists, Capitol, Laurie, MGM, Big Top, Old Town, Roulette, and Atlantic Records. In 1963, Berns would replace Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller as the staff producer at Atlantic, where he produced such acts as Solomon Burke ("Cry to Me" and "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love"),
The Drifters ("Under the Boardwalk" and "Saturday Night at the Movies"),
Barbara Lewis ("Baby I'm Yours" and "Make Me Your Baby")
Wilson Pickett and LaVern Baker. Berns was also one of the few American record producers to travel across the Atlantic to London, where he produced a number of British Decca artists such as Them ("Here Comes the Night", "Baby Please Don't Go") and Lulu.
In 1965, Bert Berns formed his own record labels, Bang Records and Shout Records. Bang Records was founded with the Atlantic Records partners, with the label's name derived from the initials of their first names—Bert Berns, Ahmet Ertegün, Nesuhi Ertegün and Gerald (Jerry) Wexler. Bang was home to such artists as The McCoys ("Hang on Sloopy")
, The Strangeloves ("I Want Candy")
Them's ex-lead singer Van Morrison ("Brown Eyed Girl")
Neil Diamond ("Solitary Man" and "Cherry Cherry").
Berns formed Shout Records as an outlet for his R&B passions, recording Freddie Scott ("Are You Lonely for Me Baby")
and Erma Franklin ("Piece of My Heart")
Berns, who had a history of cardiac trouble, died of a heart attack in December 1967 aged 38.
"I remember him coming out of the console: he walked over to the drum kit, grabbed a stick and started beating on a cymbal and saying, 'Let's get this thing cooking,' and created an atmosphere. Suddenly everybody went, 'Yeah we're not sitting here tied to these seats, we're allowed to express ourselves.' Berns just created a whole freedom of atmosphere within the studio. Hellova producer. The guy was magic."
- Them guitarist Billy Harrison, interview with Wavelength