Ilene Berns, the force behind Bang Records and Web IV publishing, has died at age 73.
The label launched the career of Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Paul Davis. The publishing company included iconic works by the executive’s late husband Bert Berns, as well as such Music City songwriters as Davis and Monty Holmes.
Bert Berns was the writer of the rock and soul standards “Twist and Shout,” “Piece of My Heart,” “Tell Him,” “Here Comes the Night,” “Cry to Me,” “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love,” “A Little Bit of Soap,” “I Want Candy,” “Cry Baby” and “Hang on Sloopy.” He formed Bang Records in 1965. The label made stars of Neil Diamond and Van Morrison, but Bert died of a heart attack in 1967 at age 38.
His widow Ilene Berns was a former model and dancer at The Peppermint Lounge in Manhattan. At age 24, she became the head of her husband’s fledgling enterprises. She soon became one of the most successful female independent label chiefs of all time.
She moved Bang Records to Atlanta in 1970. She rebuilt its catalog with the Paul Davis hits “I Go Crazy,” “Sweet Life,” “Ride ‘Em Cowboy” and “Do Right.” Others on the roster included Brick (“Dazz”), Derek (“Cinnamon”), Nigel Olsson and Peabo Bryson. She also hired future hit Nashville producers Ed Seay and James Stroud.
She sold the label’s masters to CBS in 1979, but retained the company’s song-publishing firms Web IV Music and Sloopy II Music. During the early 1980s, she continued to operate Bang as a CBS imprint. She also bought several country and r&b radio stations.
Ilene Berns moved her businesses to Nashville in 1993. She pitched a country version of “Piece of My Heart” to Faith Hill, who had a No. 1 hit with it in 1994.
Bang II Records was located at 1707 Division Street. The label signed Miguel Salas as a country artist and charted three country singles by Monty Holmes in 1998 – “Why’d You Start Lookin’ So Good” (written by Paul Davis), “Alone” and “Leave My Mama Out of This.” The company also issued r&b records out of its Atlanta office.
Ilene Berns later promoted the 2014 Bert Berns biography Here Comes the Night, campaigned for her husband’s 2016 induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, appeared in the 2016 documentary film Bang: The Bert Berns Story and spearheaded the forthcoming Broadway musical Piece of My Heart.
Ilene Berns died on Monday, Feb. 20. Funeral arrangements are unknown at press time.
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About the AuthorRobert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow . He is a respected music critic, author and historian.
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