I don’t usually rave, but I absolutely flipped over “Bang! The Bert Berns Story.”
It is nostalgic, funny, historical, exciting, full of despair, and packed with vintage footage of performers such as Van Morrison, the Isley Brothers, Neil Diamond, the Drifters, and the Exciters, a group you know but don’t think you do.
Bert Berns, born in the Bronx to Russian Jewish immigrants, rose from obscurity via the heightened emotional pitch of his music and left us too soon, felled by a chronic heart condition.
Berns now has his well-deserved legacy in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and is extolled by icons such as Paul McCartney in this 94-minute documentary, directed by son Brett Berns.
Berns’ genius was that he understood Afro-Cuban beats and knew how to get singers to take his advice and still like and respect him. He was a dreamer and a major talent himself in writing and recording before discovering others.
“Bang!” (the name of his record label) moves superfast, and I didn’t want it to end. I was crying and dancing.
Berns created real soul by getting his artists to use gospel and genuine tears of pain. Yes, he was known for pain. He was neurotic about love and crying and was heartsick with emotion masquerading in teenage records.
Cissy Houston said no one else had his street smarts, intuition and nose for talent. Some called him the only white soul brother.
Berns had two secret weapons: his wife, a hot, Jewish, 22-year-old go-go dancer with business sense, and the mob. Real Mafia bosses play a matter-of-fact yet riveting role in the movie.
If you’ve heard “Hang On Sloopy,” “Brown Eyed Girl,” “I Want Candy,” “A Little Bit of Soap,” “Tell Him,” “Shout” and “Twist and Shout,” you should not miss this trip down memory lane.