Bert Berns
b. 1929, New York, USA, d. 30 December 1967, New York City, New York, USA. This exceptional songwriter and producer was responsible for some of urban, ‘uptown’-soul's most treasured moments. He began his career as a record salesman, before being drawn into a new role as copywriter and session pianist. Berns then began composing, often under such pseudonyms as Bert Russell and Russell Byrd, and in 1960 formed a partnership with Phil Medley, the first of several similar working relationships. Their first major success came with Twist And Shout, originally recorded by the Top Notes but later transformed into an anthem by the Isley Brothers and regularly performed as a show stopper by the Beatles. Berns's work then appeared on several New York-based outlets, but his next important step came when he replaced the team of Leiber And Stoller as the Drifters’ writer/producer. Now firmly in place at the Atlanticlabel, he was involved with several other artists including Ben E. King and Barbara Lewis although his finest work was saved for Solomon Burke and such definitive releases as Goodbye Baby, Everybody Needs Somebody To Love and The Price. Berns also forged an exceptional partnership with Jerry Ragavoywhich included stellar work for Garnet Mimms and Lorraine Ellison, plus Piece Of My Heart which was recorded by Erma Franklin and later on by Janis Joplin. A spell in Britain resulted in sessions with Them and Lulu, Berns returned home to inaugurate the Bang and Shout labels. The former, pop-oriented company boasted a roster including the McCoys, the Strangeloves and former Them lead singer Van Morrison, while Shout was responsible for several excellent soul releases by Roy C, Bobby Harris, Erma Franklin and Freddy Scott. An astute individual, Berns once proffered a photograph of the Beatles to writer Nik Cohn. ‘These boys have genius. They may be the ruin of us all.’ He was referring to an endangered generation of hustling backroom talent, responsible for gathering songs, musicians and arrangements. He did not survive to see his prophecy fulfilled—Berns died from a heart attack in a New York hotel room on 30 December 1967.