Spotlight on Bert Berns

The April 29 edition of The Boris Rock Show will feature a spotlight on the legendary writer and producer Bert Berns.

He Ain't Give You None: Jeff Barry, Bert Berns and Van Morrison in 1967. Morrison was signed to Berns' Bang Records and had his first solo single, "Brown-Eyed Girl" with Berns producing. Morrison did not look back on the experience favorably. (Photo courtesy Counterpoint)

He Ain’t Give You None: (From left) Jeff Barry, Bert Berns and Van Morrison in 1967. Morrison was signed to Berns’ Bang Records and had his first solo single, “Brown-Eyed Girl” with Berns producing. Morrison did not look back on the experience favorably. (Photo courtesy Counterpoint)

The program runs 9 a.m. to noon and Boris’ feature on the enigmatic Berns begins at 10:30 a.m. and will include a discussion about his career and some of the classic tracks he either wrote or produced.

Berns — stricken with rheumatic fever as a youth, lived most of his adult life with the knowledge that the childhood illness would lead to his early demise — died in 1967 at the age of 38, six months after he produced the Top-10 hit, “Brown-Eyed Girl,” effectively ushering in Van Morrison’s solo career.

One of the tracks Boris will feature is “A Tribute to Bert Berns” by Led Zeppelin which was recorded during early sessions for Zeppelin’s debut release in 1969. The track was actually a cover of Bern’s “Baby Come On Home” but guitarist Jimmy Page gave it a different working title during the sessions. The track was left off the album.

In 1962, the Isley Brothers recorded their second album which featured “Twist and Shout,” a track that Berns had co-written as Bert Russell — one of three names he used. More importantly, the upstart Berns produced the Isley’s effort to “show” recently signed Atlantic staff producer Phil Spector how the record should sound.

Atlantic braintrust: Jerry Wexler, Bert Burns, Nesuhi and Ahmet Ertegun. (Photo courtesy of Counterpoint)

Atlantic braintrust: Jerry Wexler, Bert Burns, Nesuhi and Ahmet Ertegun. (Photo courtesy of Counterpoint)

In the years that followed, Berns wrote and produced at Capitol, MGM, United Artists, Roulette and Atlantic. By 1963, he unseated the legendary team of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller to become Atlantic’s staff producer, having a hand in such classics as “Under The Boardwalk” (The Drifters) and “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love” (Solomon Burke).

Berns singlehandedly put Morrison on the charts, first in 1965 with the band Them which took Berns’ written and produced “Here Comes The Night” to No. 2 in the U.K. When the Belfast Cowboy went solo in 1967 with the Berns-produced “Blowin’ Your Mind” album, it was released on the independent label — Bang Records — which Berns help found in 1965.

The label — named using the first letters of the first names of the four founders: Berns along with Atlantic Records executives Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun and Wexler – had its share of hits: “Brown-Eyed Girl” (Morrison), “Kentucky Woman” and “Cherry Cherry” (Neil Diamond), “Hang On Sloopy” (The McCoys) and “I Want Candy” (The Strangeloves), each of which had Berns writing or producing.

Studio trailblazers: Jerry Wexler (left) Bert Berns and Tom Dowd at work at Atlantic Records in New York City. Wexler was a force in the industry as a producer and was responsible for signing top talent. Dowd played a pivotal role in defining recording techniques such as implementing multi-tracking and popularizing stereo in the 1960s. (Photo courtesy Counterpoint)

Studio trailblazers: Jerry Wexler (left), Bert Berns and Tom Dowd at work at Atlantic Records in New York City. Wexler was a force in the industry as a producer and was responsible for signing top talent. Dowd played a pivotal role in defining recording techniques such as implementing multi-tracking and popularizing stereo in the 1960s. (Photo courtesy Counterpoint)

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