by Robert Wilkinson
Though most have never heard of this superstar producer who died young, you’ve heard his music! It’s a good day to dance!
Wednesday was the birthday of Bertrand Russell Burns (November 8, 1929 – December 30, 1967), aka Bert Russell or Russell Byrd. An amazing songwriter and producer in the 60s, he gave us some of the most famous hits of the era, 51 in just 7 years, before he died of heart failure. It is said that he was a pioneer in “bringing Latin rhythms to soul music, and soul to rock and roll.”
So today we enjoy the work of a blazing star of pop music! I’ve mainly found the studio versions, since he either wrote and/or produced these legendary gems!
One of the ultimate attitude tunes was co-written by Burt! Here’s his iconic second hit, done as only the Isley Brothers could! “Twist and Shout” Since it’s such a great tune to dance to, here’s a live performance by the Isleys of "Twist and Shout."
We now go back to two more early hits from the early 60s!
First, the studio version of Burt’s first hit which the Jarmels took to #12 on the charts in 1961, the classic “A Little Bit of Soap.” Here they are a few years ago at an oldies show still cranking it out, live and up close! “A Little Bit of Soap”
Here’s a very strange music video of the original Exciters doing their 1962 #4 hit penned by our birthday boy, “Tell Him.”
Here’s the 1963 #4 hit recording by Garnet Mimms and the Enchanters of “Cry Baby.” Of course the best known version was given to us by the divine Pearl, Ms. Janis Joplin! For your enjoyment, I found a very LIVE awesome performance by Janis in Toronto in 1970, who puts so much feeling into this song that it’s breathtaking! “Cry Baby”
I found four fantastic live performances of one of Bert Burns’ iconic hits!First, we have a great live performance in 2003 by Solomon Burke, who originally took the song to the charts in 1964! “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love.” Of course, the more famous version was done by Jake and Elwood Blues! From The Blues Brothers movie, “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love.”
We now go to three classic performances of the tune by the same band. First I found this clipped NME live performance by the Rolling Stones of “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love,” which we’ll follow with this obscure 1965 live television performance by the Stones of “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love.” We’ll close by going to Paris in 2003, where we have Mick and the Stones uniting with Solomon Burke in an ab-fab live video performance of “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”
Here’s an interesting (if primitive) early music video from 1964 of the Drifters performing a Bert Burns produced tune “Under the Boardwalk”
From 1965, another BB produced tune that Barbara Lewis took to #11 on the Hot 100, “Baby I’m Yours.” From the same classy lady, a great live television performance of another BB production that also went to #11 that same year, in this clip followed by another performance of her first hit, “Make Me Your Baby” and “Baby I’m Yours”
From the 1965 NME, a great live performance by Them (fronted by a very young Van Morrison!) of a tune written by Bert Burns, “Here Comes the Night.” Also from 1965, a television performance of another blues standard Bert produced that Them turned into a hit, “Baby Please Don’t Go”
Bert wrote this iconic garage rock classic that Rick Derringer and the McCoys took to #1 on the Charts in 1965! Here they’re obviously lip synching to the original. “Hang on Sloopy.”
These are two strange “live” performance videos by the McCoys of the song. The first looks like it’s the actual “performance” while the second looks like it’s footage from the same shoot, but focused on the dancer rather than the band. Here are the teenage McCoys cranking out “Hang on Sloopy.” From the same shoot with a different soundtrack, “Hang on Sloopy.”
Of course, no rendition of this classic would be complete without the Ohio State Marching Band version! For your enjoyment, two performances that must be heard to be believed! From Nov 2013, an indoor performance of "Hang On Sloopy." And out in the end zone, live and outdoors in Sept 2013, a great performance of "Hang On Sloopy."
Bert co-wrote this classic that the Strangeloves took to #11, complete with the Bo Diddley beat! (Sounds like at least one of the 4 writers was listening to “Willie and the Hand Jive” by the great Johnny Otis…) From Hullabaloo, “I Want Candy.” For the newer hit version, here’s Bow Wow Wow live in Germany in 1982 taking care of business! “I Want Candy”
Bert signed and co-produced Neil Diamond when he signed his first recording contract with Bang Records. For your enjoyment, his first big ones, recorded on Bert’s Bang Records label! Here’s a great early b/w video of Neil lip-synching to the original studio version of “Solitary Man,” and here’s his second big hit on Bang, a lip-synched performance of “Cherry Cherry.” We’ll close with his version of his third and last hit on Bang, performed at the Bitter End in the late 60s, "Kentucky Woman."
Here’s the original that was written and produced by Bert back in 1967, and made into a hit by Irma Franklin! “Piece of My Heart.” Of course, we must include several very live and passionate performances of the tune by Janis! First, from Germany in 1968, “Piece of My Heart.” We then go to Stockholm 1969 and hear Janis belting out “Piece of My Heart,” and we’ll close with a video from Frankfurt in 1969 of Janis backed by the Kozmic Blues Band cranking out a live performance of her signature tune, “Piece of My Heart.”
We’ll close this tribute to Bert Burns with the most famous version of "Twist and Shout." This live performance on November 4, 1963 features one of the most famous lines in history, delivered in most cheeky style by John Lennon to the Royal Family. After brief interviews, the fun begins 50 seconds in. Enjoy the Beatles giving up “Twist and Shout.” From a few weeks later, on their third Ed Sullivan Show appearance on 23 Feb 1964, another rousing version by a longer-haired set of Beatles! “Twist and Shout.”
Copyright © 2017 Robert Wilkinson