Bob Sarles and Brett Berns’ Bang! The Bert Berns Story covers the short but full life of Bert Berns, a songwriter and record producer responsible on various levels for enduring 1960s classics that include but are not limited to “Piece of My Heart” and “Twist and Shout.” Making it to age 38 despite a childhood case of rheumatic fever that left him with a damaged heart, Berns rose to prominence at Atlantic Records and eventually with his own labels, Bang! and Shout. Bang! The Bert Berns Story doesn’t shy away from the more glamorously dark aspects of Berns’ life, such as his conspicuous consumption or his ties to the mob.
That said, perhaps because the film was co-directed by his son, his indulgence in the evergreen practice of screwing over recording artists feels largely underplayed, even as it acknowledges his using those mob ties to intimidate Neil Diamond. And while still a skosh grumpy about being misled during the Blowin’ Your Mind! recording sessions, even Van Morrison is on hand to sing Berns’ praises, though Disc 3 of the just-released The Authorized Bang Collection makes it clear how desperately Morrison wanted out of his contract at the time. Bang! The Bert Berns Story isn’t one of the more essential boomer-nostalgia docs, but it hits the target more often than not.
Bang! The Bert Berns Story
Opens Friday at the Roxie Theater.