Dan Bern

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Dan Bern
Dan Bern 1.JPG
Bern in August 1999.
Background information
Birth name Daniel Bern
Also known as Bernstein
Cunliffe Merriwether
Born Mount Vernon, Iowa, U.S.
Genres Folk, rock, pop
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter, author, visual artist
Instruments Vocals, guitar, harmonica
Labels Messenger, Cooking Vinyl, Work
Website danbern.com

Dan Bern (also known as Bernstein; born July 27, 1965) is an American guitarist, singer, songwriter, novelist and painter. His music is often compared to that of Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Bruce Springsteen, Phil Ochs and Elvis Costello.[1][2][3]

He is a prolific composer, having written over one thousand songs.[4][5] He also wrote the novel Quitting Science (2004) under the pen name Cunliffe Merriwether and wrote the preface under his own name.


Bern's song "Talkin' Woody, Bob, Bruce, and Dan Blues," from the album Smartie Mine, offers a joking take on this influence, presented in the style of a Guthrie or Dylan talking blues song, and containing a spoof of a Springsteen song as well. When asked about the similarity between himself and Dylan, he once quipped, "I guess Bob Dylan was sort of the Dan Bern of the '60's." Bernstein has also toured with Ani DiFranco. He is known for sardonic, literary lyrics, a range of musical styles, and a folk music style paired with rock instrumentation.

Although a vein of social and political humor runs through even his earliest work, Bern's songs became more explicitly political during the 2004 US presidential election campaign, with songs such as "Bush Must Be Defeated" and "President" highlighting his sometimes surreal political takes. His work also often deals with his Lithuanian Jewish ancestry, as in such songs as "Lithuania." The name Bernstein is a reference to this ancestry; on a trip to Lithuania, he learned it was his family's name before immigration to the United States.[6]

Many of his tours and recordings between 1997 and 2003 featured a regular cast of backup musicians which he began calling the International Jewish Banking Conspiracy or IJBC. When asked why he chose that name, Bern said it was a tribute to the book Nigger by Dick Gregory.

New American Language, The Swastika EP, Fleeting Days and My Country II were all released under the "Dan Bern & the International Jewish Banking Conspiracy" name. The IJBC featured longtime Bern producer and collaborator Wil Masisak on keyboards, drums, guitar and bass; Eben "Eby Brown" Grace on guitar and pedal steel; Brian "Slim Nickel" Schey on bass and guitar; Paul Kuhn on cellocaster; Anna Phoebe on electric violin; and drummers Colin "Spanky" Mahoney and Jake Coffin.

In early 2007, Bern's Breathe won in The 6th Annual Independent Music Awards for Best Folk/Singer-Songwriter Album.[7]

In 2009 and 2010, Bern often played with Common Rotation, a musical group out of Los Angeles, California that consists of vocals, guitar, banjo, trumpet, saxophone, and other instruments. Playing a concert in September 2009 at the M Bar in Los Angeles, Bern and Common Rotation recorded their show and released a live album in the spring of 2010 called "Live in Los Angeles." Approximately half the songs are Dan Bern playing solo and the other half include Common Rotation.

Bern's songwriting skills were used in the biopic parody film Walk Hard where he helped write 16 songs for the movie. Many of these songs made the theatrical cut of the film including the Dylanesque "Royal Jelly," and the melodic "(Have You Heard the News) Dewey Cox Died." He continues to write songs for films, including Get Him to the Greek and Father's Day.[8] Bern’s song "One Dance" was also included in Kasdan's first film "Zero Effect". Bern wrote "Swing Set," a duet with Emmylou Harris, for the off Broadway production of "Family Week" directed by Jonathan Demme and wrote the title song for Demme’s documentary "Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains."

In 2012, Bern released two new studio recordings showcasing American roots music: "Drifter," featuring a duet with Emmylou Harris, and "Doubleheader," an 18-song tribute to baseball culled from close to 30 years of songwriting and recorded at Bob Weir’s TRI Studios in Marin County. Both CDs feature longtime collaborators Common Rotation with whom Bern has also released two live recordings.

Bern also wrote and illustrated "Cleaver the Gronk" (2012) and the novel "Quitting Science" (2004) under the pen name Cunliffe Merriwether. Bern lives with his wife and daughter in Los Angeles.

Dan, an avid baseball fan, has written several baseball songs including "Johnny Sylvester Comes Back to Visit the Babe" in which he put words to music to the legendary story of Babe Ruth and Johnny Sylvester.[9]


Studio albums[edit]

  • Dog Boy Van (EP; 1996)
  • Dan Bern (1997)
  • Fifty Eggs (1998)
  • Smartie Mine (double album; 1998)
  • New American Language (2001)
  • World Cup (EP; 2002)
  • The Swastika EP (EP; 2002)
  • Fleeting Days (2003)
  • My Country II (EP; 2004)
  • Anthems (EP; 2004)
  • Breathe Easy (EP; 2006)
  • Breathe (2006)
  • Moving Home (2008)
  • Two Feet Tall (2009)
  • Live in Los Angeles (2010)
  • Live in New York (2011)
  • Drifter (2012)
  • Doubleheader (2012)
  • Wilderness Song (2012)
  • Three Feet Tall (2015)
  • Hoody (2015)
  • Adderal Holiday (2016)

Albums available on iTunes and eMusic[edit]

  • Divine and Conquer (1994; released 2007)
  • The Burbank Tapes (1998; released in 2007)
  • Macaroni Cola (2000–2001; released in 2007)
  • Songs of Fall (2014)


External links[edit]