With all of today’s technology and social media giving us information at an unprecedented rate, it is always exciting to discover unknown facts and news pieces. Documentaries offer a glimpse of subjects and topics the viewer might have known little to nothing about before watching. A sign of a good documentary is one that is able to keep your attention so that you do not drown amidst a sea of facts. What better way to keep one’s attention than providing an incredible soundtrack of rhythm of blues.
I could not describe Brett Berns and Bob Sarles’ film BANG! The Bert Berns Story without stating that it is a fun musical journey of old classics that will keep you humming and singing along until the end. The film includes old photographs and interviews with Bert’s family, co-workers and musicians that worked alongside him. Deemed “The White Soul Brother” I doubt unless you are a music historian/aficionado that anyone could have named some of the hits Berns wrote/produced such as: Solomon Burke’s “Cry to Me”, The Isley Brothers “Twist & Shout”, The Excitors “Tell Him” or Garnet Mimms and the Enchanters’ “Cry Baby”. Many and I included tend to associate songs with the artists that perform them. Unbeknownst to me someone from the Bronx, NY who grew up with rheumatic fever and a love of Cuban salsa music is to thank for such great songs.
The documentary covers Bert’s climb from a bottom of the barrel songwriter to one of the most well-known, recognized and respected patrons of the music industry. Interviews with Solomon Burke, Wilson Pickett, Paul McCartney, Van Morrison and Keith Richards just to name a few have nothing but praise for a man who many have never heard of. In just seven years, Berns had 51 singles in the pop charts and when you realize the timeframe of such hits, it is equivalent to Apple producing a new IPhone every other month. It truly was a gift for one man to be able to put out such great music time and time again especially when you realize all the hectic business dealings he had to deal with.
Berns and Sarles’ film gives a very inside look to the music business during the sixties. The film offers information of everything that led to Berns’ success starting from 1650 Broadway all the way until he gained control of both BANG! and Atlantic Records. The one drawback I would have to say is we get a lot of information of the business dealings but not so much of the man himself. That is of course unless he was so connected to his work there was no separation; which from the interviews and stories told could very well be the case. Anyone who is a fan of music, its history or maybe for those who want to hear, in my opinion, one of the biggest stories never told should check out this film. One of Bert’s last hits “Piece of My Heart” is a suitable title as Bert literally poured all of himself into his creations and with each hit that is what he was giving. There will never be another as talented and gifted as he was and if you were to ask a music lover “Who is Bert Berns?” and their response is “I don’t know” take pleasure after watching this film that you now too can tell them one of the great stories never told.
3 out 5
Film Releases in New York City Wednesday April 26th at the IFC Center located at 323 6th Ave, New York, NY 10014 and LA on Friday May 5th at Laemmle’s NoHo 7 located at 5240 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91601
Further screenings can be found here