Ilene Berns, Pioneering Exec Who Helmed Bang Records, Dies at 73

Courtesy Photo
Ilene Berns

Music industry veteran Ilene Berns died Monday (Feb. 20) in Florida. She was 73. Berns will be remembered as one of the leading female independent label chiefs of her time. At just 24, she took the reins of Bang Records and its Web IV Music publishing when her husband, the executive, songwriter and producer Bert Berns, died of a heart attack in 1968.

Under her direction, Bangs administered  the rich Bang and Shout catalogs with recordings by Van Morrison, Neil Diamond, The McCoys, Strangeloves, Freddie Scott and Erma Franklin and enjoyed a string of hits from the likes of Derek (“Cinnamon”), Paul Davis (“I Go Crazy”), Brick (“Dazz”) and Peabo Bryson (“Underground Music”).

Berns also engineered the company’s relocation from New York to Atlanta, and ultimately to Nashville. She helmed Bang from 1968 until its purchase by CBS/Sony in 1979, though Web IV was retained by Berns and her family.

Born Ilene Holub in Cleveland on May 1, 1943, she grew up in Los Angeles and fell in love with music and dance. Her family moved to New York in the early ‘60s where she modeled and danced professionally at the Peppermint Lounge and The Round Table. She met songwriter-record producer Bert Berns in 1963.

Not just an exec, Berns co-wrote a song titled “You Forgot How To Love” under the name Ilene Stewart for Patti Labelle & the Bluebells. She appeared in the critically-lauded 2016 documentary BANG! The Bert Berns Story. Berns is survived by the three children she had with Berns and by her two sons to Motown promotion executive Eddie Biscoe, whom she married in 1970.