'Piece of my Heart' show Off-Broadway captures the life of Bert Berns

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Sandy Kenyon has the story. (WABC)

He was born in the Bronx and died too soon in 1967, but Bert Berns still managed to write many memorable songs like "Hang on Sloopy" and "Twist 'n Shout."

His music is everywhere, but the Berns name has been lost - until now.

A musical about this unsung hero is playing Off-Broadway at the Signature Center on West 42nd Street.

The soundtrack of the 60s just wouldn't have been the same without Berns but today, few know his name and even the actor who plays him had never heard of the songwriter before doing this show

"Didn't know a thing. Nope. Not anything more than his music," said actor Zak Resnick.

Twist 'n Shout became the first hit by The Beatles - and it's one of 50 hits bearing the name of Berns, who also discovered Van Morrison among others. So how come we've never heard of him?

He completely disappeared because he died so young. The powerful people who were his partners and his enemies worked to bury his legacy."

Brett Berns was just 2 and a half years old when his father died. Bert Berns' life ended early due to a bad heart, damaged in childhood by rheumatic fever.

Today, Brett Berns and his sister Cassie are the keepers of their father's flame.

"It's really been our life's mission, our life's work," said Cassie Berns.

The new musical takes its title from one of the last songs Berns ever wrote. In the show, the Berns children are represented by a single character played by Leslie Kritzer.

"Bert Berns was someone that really never got credit, and now he's getting credit, and it's time and we're excited to do that," Kritzer said.

"Piece of my Heart" is just the latest effort by Berns' children.

A book about him was published earlier this year and a documentary is in the works. The musical runs through the middle of the month and could reach Broadway sometime after that.
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