Just so you know, “Bernie and the Believers” is not a band formed to tout a certain presidential candidate from New England. Bernie and the Believers are about something more important than politics: music and friendship.
Just three years ago singer-songwriter Essence Goldman was back from touring and looking to make ends meet by giving singing lessons. That’s when she met. Bernie Dalton.
“This gentleman named Bernie Dalton replid to an ad that I posted on Craigslist for voice lessons. He was 46 years old. And he always wanted to pursue his dream of being a musician, but he never had the confidence to do so. But at 46 years old, he decided it was time,” Goldman said.
But after a promising start those plans he had a stumbling block would soon became something more.
“And after two months of taking voice lessons, and sharing his song ideas with me, his voice disappeared, and it was really alarming and shocking. We didn't know what it was at first,” she said. “We didn't get too worried, though. I figured he might have laryngitis, but the longer time went on, his voice didn't come back. And it turned out it was the first symptom of what was diagnosed as the most severe form of Lou Gehrig's disease, bolder onset ALS.”
ALS is a motor neuron disease of the brain that is always fatal. It is better known as Lou Gehrig's disease after the New York Yankees slugger, and was what afflicted famous scientist Stephen Hawking.
When she found out about his condition, Goldman asked Dalton what he wanted to do with the time he had left. He said he wanted to make an album and needed her help.
“And so he asked me, because he could no longer speak or sing, if I would be his voice. And if I would put melody and music to his words, and he wrote these amazing songs that were dedicated to his daughter, and her future children. At the time, she was only 16. And he was afraid he wasn't going to live long enough to meet his grandchildren. So he wanted to be remembered for his views of the world. And he wanted to give them some advice for living and he wrote these very powerful lyric.”
So Goldman and the band, Bernie and the Believers are on tour. raising money for end of life care for their friend.
“He is not a cookie cutter guy in any way. He was a surfer and very down to earth, very soft spoken, very shy, very humble. But he had these very unique views of the world and I say has because he's gravely ill and he's on life support and he can't move anything now except his eyes, but he is still alive and he knows that we're bringing this music on tour around the country. And he's, he's living to share this music with people. And it is my greatest honor.”
Bernie and the Believers will be on the air live here on KDLL at 3 p.m. Thursday, just a few hours before their concert at 7pm at Triumvirate Theater in North Kenai Thursday night. The tour is co sponsored by Triumvirate Theater and the Alaska State Council on the Arts.
(Thanks to Joe Rizzo of Triumvirate Theater for his help with this story.)