Article excerpt from Karen Thomas’ “Connection” write up, Published on NBC Right Now
Als-Stricken Songwriter Bernie Dalton Bernie & The Believers Album “Connection”
This devastatingly beautiful story of Bernie Dalton hiring singer/songwriter Essence Goldman to refine his voice, only to lose it two months after to bulbar-onset ALS. Now, only able to communicate with an Eye Gaze Device, their full-length album is completed, an NPR Tiny Desk Entry.
We are a few weeks from the month of May which has been deemed ALS Awareness Month by ALSA.org, who, along with other ALS support and research organizations, spearheaded the ultra viral Ice Bucket Challenge back in 2014 revitalizing further discussion and exploration around the malicious disease on a worldwide level. Here is another, more specific, story about ALS awareness…
Two years ago, in San Francisco, Bernie Dalton hired Essence Goldman as his voice coach. Bernie, an avid surfer and a devoted single father to a beautiful 14 year old daughter named Nicole, decided to, at 46 years old, finally pursue his enduring dream of making an album of his own original songs. Lessons were progressing well, when, after 2 months, Bernie’s voice mysteriously disappeared. Ultimately, he would be diagnosed with bulbar-onset ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). As is typical of the disease, his condition deteriorated rapidly leaving him without the ability to move any part of his body, except eyes. Losing his voice was the first symptom.
Despite living in the shadow of his diagnosis, Bernie and Essence fostered a profound friendship. Essence wanted to help raise money so that Bernie could take Nicole on a trip while he still could, but Bernie insisted on making his record. He wanted to leave a musical legacy for his daughter’s future children that he would likely not live long enough to meet.Through his lyrics, he wanted his future grandchildren to know who he is, his views of the world and ALS, and to convey his advice for living. Because he could no longer sing or speak, Bernie asked Essence to be his voice. Essence took the initiative to launch a Go Fund Me campaign, resulting in the outpour of love and support from family and friends from over 10 countries and 48 states, making it possible to record an album of Bernie’s lyrics brought to life.
Triumphantly, the album, released under the artist moniker, Bernie & The Believers featuring Essence and titled, Connection, at an event entitled “A Celebration of the Triumph of Music Over ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)” at Slim’s in San Francisco, host to other musical artists such as Radiohead, Kings of Leon and Prince.
Pulled together by Goldman, the album is as much a testimony to she and Dalton’s perseverance as it is a brilliant collection of new and powerful songs. Essence is its voice, producer, and co-writer and acclaimed multi-instrumentalists, co-writers, and co-producers Roger Rocha, Daniel Berkman and David Simon-Baker comprise the core team of collaborators behind the music. Bernie’s daughter, Nicole Dalton sings harmonies on the album, as well.