Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford will screen the biographical documentary, “Bang! The Bert Berns Story,” which tells the story of 1960s American songwriter and record producer Bert Berns, on Saturdya, Dec. 17 at 6 p.m., followed by a live performance by legendary soul singer Betty Harris.
The documentary includes interviews with Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, Van Morrison, Ben E. King, Ron Isley, Cissy Houston, and Betty Harris. The film captures the exciting and tragic life of Bert Berns, a songwriter and record producer of the popular and soul music of the 1960s that you’ve never heard of, narrated by Steven Van Zandt.
A post-film Q&A will feature Bert Berns’ son, Brett Berns, who co-directed the film with Bob Sarles; Bert Berns’ daughter, Cassie Berns; producer Leo Feroleto; recording artist Kenny Hamber; and Betty Harris, who lives in Connecticut.
Following the screening, Harris, a 1960s R&B star with “Cry to Me” and “His Kiss,” will perform with the Mighty Soul Drivers and the Queen Ann Nzinga Center All Stars. Harris’ top voice students from the Queen Ann Nzinga Center, Aaleya Hardy, of Bristol and Tanairy Barton, of Plainville, will sing back-up. Harris, of Middletown, has volunteered as a vocal coach to several participants in the Queen Ann Nzinga Center’s programs, engaging them as her back-up singers at concerts in Spain and New Orleans.
Dayna Snell, executive director of the QANC, and New Haven-based vocalist Toni Ligon, QANC program mentor, will also accompany Harris, and QANC participant, Willis Moore Jr., of New Britain, will play drums. Ligon will also sing a Bert Berns song, “A Piece of My Heart,” originally sung by Erma Franklin. In addition, Hamber will perform his hit, “Show Me Your Monkey,” accompanied by the women from QANC.
Berns was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year; a Broadway musical, “Piece of My Heart,” will premiere in 2017. He’s also the subject of a recent biography, “Here Comes the Night,” by Joel Selvin. His name may be little known, but songs he wrote and produced have endured: “Twist & Shout,” “Cry to Me,” “Tell Him,” “Piece of My Heart,” “Cry Baby,” “Hang on Sloopy,” “I Want Candy,” “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love.”
Berns’ sessions made legends of Solomon Burke, The Isley Brothers, The Drifters, Ben E. King, Betty Harris, Wilson Pickett, Van Morrison, and Neil Diamond. His songs became chart-topping covers for the likes of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Animals and Janis Joplin. His premature death at 38 cut short a seven-year streak of hits.
The event is planned in collaboration with Queen Ann Nzinga Center and the Six Summit Gallery.
The Wadsworth Atheneum is at 29 Atheneum Square North, Hartford.
For tickets, go to the Wadsworth’s website at http://bit.ly/2fGc4D9, or buy them at Trinity-on-Main in New Britain by appointment, at (860)229-8389; or the Six Summit Gallery, 6 Summit St., Ivoryton by appointment, at (860)581-8332.