If you like behind-the-scenes-of-the-hits films like “20 Feet from Stardom,” “Muscle Shoals,” and “The Wrecking Crew,” you will enjoy “BANG! The Bert Berns Story.” Like “Wrecking Crew,” this is a love letter from a son to his father. You have not heard the name Bert Berns, but you have heard — and I am sure, you have sung — the songs he wrote or produced include “Twist and Shout,” “Brown Eyed Girl,” Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart,” “Hang on Sloopy,” “I Want Candy,” “My Boyfriend’s Back,” “Under the Boardwalk,” and many, many more.
Berns had a weak heart, the result of rheumatic fever. He knew his time was limited. And so he lived hard and fast, to get everything he could in the time he had. As a young man, he fell in love with mambo and the Latin rhythms that were popular at his local dance clubs. He brought some of that sound to the early days of rock music, creating hit after hit as songwriter and producer, working with some of the biggest stars in the business, helping many of them get there.
The film has some great interviews and details, especially some unexpected anecdotes from Berns’ best pal from the mob, who stepped in “Godfather”-style to help out now and then, dragging one singer from his sister’s funeral to make sure he didn’t miss a recording date. There are stories of rising and falling, business partnerships and betrayals, and Bert’s romance with a tough cookie of a blonde go-go dancer who became his wife. Great characters, great music — and a lot of fun to watch.