Dan Bern

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Dan Bern
Bern in August 1999.
Bern in August 1999.
Background information
Birth nameDaniel Bern
Also known asBernstein
Cunliffe Merriwether
Born (1959-07-27) July 27, 1959 (age 63)
Mount Vernon, Iowa, U.S.
GenresFolk, rock, pop
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, author, visual artist
Instrument(s)Vocals, guitar, harmonica
LabelsMessenger, Cooking Vinyl, Work

Dan Bern (also known as Bernstein; born July 27, 1959) is an American guitarist, singer, songwriter, novelist and painter. His music has been 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 wrote the novel Quitting Science (2004) under the pen name Cunliffe Merriwether and wrote the preface under his own name.


Dan Bern at Hopmonk Tavern in Novato, California.
Marquee advertises a Dan Bern performance.

Bern's song "Talkin' Woody, Bob, Bruce, and Dan Blues," from the album Smartie Mine, offers a joking take on this[clarification needed] 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 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 often deals with his Lithuanian Jewish ancestry, as in songs like "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]

Between 1997 and 2003 many of his tours and recordings featured a regular cast of backup musicians which he began calling the International Jewish Banking Conspiracy or IJBC, which Bern said was a tribute to the book Nigger by Dick Gregory.[7] 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.[8]

In 2009, 2010 and 2012, Bern played with Common Rotation from Los Angeles, California which consists of vocals, guitar, banjo, trumpet, saxophone, and other instruments. Their concert in September 2009 at the M Bar in Los Angeles, was released as a live album in the spring of 2010 called "Live in Los Angeles" with about half the songs Bern playing solo and the other half including 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.[9] 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 studio recordings of 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.

In 2004, Bern published the novel Quitting Science and, in 2012, Cleaver the Gronk under the pen name Cunliffe Merriwether.

An avid baseball fan, Bern has written several baseball songs including "Johnny Sylvester Comes Back to Visit the Babe" in which he put words to music to the story of Babe Ruth and Johnny Sylvester.[10]

In 2019, Bern released the album Regent Street.


Bern learned to play cello at age six, and the guitar at 14[11] or 16, after he heard his first Bob Dylan songs.[12]

After college, he played seven open mics a week in Chicago and started to be invited to Chicago folk clubs such as The Earl of Old Town, Holstein's and The No Exit.[12]

In 1991, he lived in Hollywood, taught tennis in Encino to make a living as a songwriter. The junior scouts from the major record companies “were coming around".[12] Bern is married to Danielle Lesniewski. They have a daughter and lived in Los Angeles until 2016 before moving eastward for family reasons.[11]


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)
  • Regent Street (2019)
  • Ivan's Barbershop (2020)
  • Shining (EP; 2020)

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)


  1. ^ Brett Hartenbach Dan Bern - Biography, AllMusic
  2. ^ "Folk Singer Joan Baez's 10 Best Songs". Archived from the original on October 18, 2005.
  3. ^ [1] Archived May 24, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "The Official Dan Bern Lyric Archive". eArthlink.net.
  5. ^ "Dan Bern Song Lyrics". Danbern.redacorn.net.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". www.anchoragepress.com. Archived from the original on May 22, 2003. Retrieved January 13, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ Ragogna, Mike (July 27, 2011). "Scars On 45's New Video and Download, Plus Chatting with Vanessa Carlton, Dan Bern and David Bromberg". Huffington Post. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  8. ^ "Independent Music Awards – 6th Annual Winners". Archived from the original on May 1, 2009.
  9. ^ "Horror". Syfy.com.
  10. ^ Poekel, Charlie (2007). Babe and the Kid: The Legendary Story of Babe Ruth and Johnny Sylvester. The History Press. p. 140. ISBN 978-1-59629-267-3.
  11. ^ a b Kathleen Phalen-Tomaselli, The artistic genius of Dan Bern The Poststar. April 2, 2017
  12. ^ a b c Dan Bern Dylan called me a “scurrilous little wretch with a hard-on for comedy Salon.com 10.08.2015

External links[edit]