Steven Van Zandt Inducts Bert Berns Into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Last night (April 8), songwriter Bert Berns was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as the recipient of the Ahmet Ertugun Award for Lifetime Achievement. Steven Van Zandt, a longtime fan of Berns, gave the speech that welcomed him into the Hall.
Since he only had three minutes, Van Zandt did little more than list the major credits for which Berns is known. Although Berns was only in the music business for seven years before his death on Dec. 30, 1967 at the age of 38, his catalog of hits is impressive, writing and/or producing such rock and soul classics as "Twist and Shout" (Isley Brothers, the Beatles), "Brown Eyed Girl" (Van Morrison) "Tell Him" (the Exciters), "Hang On Sloopy" (the McCoys), "Here Comes the Night" (Them), "Under the Boardwalk" (the Drifters), "Piece of My Heart" (Erma Franklin, Janis Joplin) and two songs for Solomon Burke that were later covered by the Rolling Stones, "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love" and "Cry to Me."
Accepting the award on his behalf, his daughter Cassie, who was only 10 months old when he died, called it a "fairytale moment" to be there, and the result of years of work to get Berns' name thought of on the same level as his Brill Building peers. She thanked Van Zandt, Paul McCartney, Paul Shaffer and industry executive Doug Morris for their efforts in helping to bring Berns to the Hall of Fame.
She also gave a shout out to his collaborators, like Jerry Ragavoy, arranger Garry Sherman, Brooks Arthur and Cissy Houston and "the men and women who make rhythm and blues." Cassie reserved her final words of praise for Ertugun and Jerry Wexler, who hired Berns as staff producer at Atlantic Records in 1962 after the departure of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Berns only lasted a few years at Atlantic, but he then spent some time working in England before returning to the U.S. to form the Bang and Shout labels.
In the past few years, Bert Berns' life has been the subject of a book (Here Comes the Night: The Dark Soul of Bert Berns and the Dirty Business of Rhythm and Blues), a jukebox musical (Piece of My Heart: The Bert Berns Story) and a Van Zandt-narrated documentary (BANG - The Bert Berns Story) that had its world premiere at this year's SXSW Festival.
The 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be broadcast on HBO on April 30.
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