“I could no longer speak or sing, so I asked my singing teacher, Essence, to become my voice.”
The Story Behind The Music
Bernie & The Believers
Bernie and The Believers is a project no one could have planned. The story began two years ago when acclaimed singer/songwriter Essence Goldman was teaching voice lessons to a man named Bernie Dalton.
Bernie is a down-to-earth, kind-hearted, devoted single father to a beautiful 16-year-old daughter named Nicole. When Essence first met Bernie, he was a dedicated surfer who had a passion for music and writing songs. In 2016, Bernie reached out to Essence for voice lessons. Bernie showed up to each lesson filled with inspiration, songs to share, and was eager to learn healthy vocal techniques to expand his range and build his confidence as a singer. Two months after starting voice lessons, Bernie’s voice mysteriously disappeared. They could not figure out why. Bernie saw a neurologist, and after a series of tests, he was diagnosed with the most aggressive form of ALS – Bulbar Onset (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). The life expectancy for people with Bulbar onset ALS is 1-3 years. Bernie was shocked and devastated. He was only 47.
Essence wanted to help raise money so Bernie could take his teenage daughter on a trip while he still could, but Bernie had a different idea. Bernie wanted to make a record of his songs. 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 grandkids to know who he is, his views of the world, and to convey his advice for living. Essence launched a Go Fund Me campaign, and the outpour of love and support from family and friends from over 10 countries and 48 states made it possible to record an album of Bernie’s songs.
Bernie had a vision, but since ALS had already robbed him of his ability to speak or sing, he asked Essence to be his voice and put melody and music to his lyrics. On the album, his daughter Nicole sings harmonies. In the early recording sessions, Bernie was able to walk and he even drove himself to the studio in his pickup truck. He was able to give feedback using hand signals and write notes on a dry erase board to indicate his approval or disapproval of what the musicians were playing. Two thumbs up from Bernie who can’t speak means a lot. But due to the aggressiveness of the disease, in six short months Bernie lost the ability to walk, move his arms, swallow, and travel, and therefore the final recordings had to be shared in the nursing home. Making this album allowed Bernie to focus on music and creativity instead of his devastating disease.
GoFundMe was so inspired and moved by Bernie’s story that they made a documentary film about him, which included Essence, and the band. It is a story of courage, creativity, and the triumph of music in spite of great adversity. Bernie’s story has also been featured prominently on BBC, FOX, CBS, and in the SF Chronicle. The San Francisco Chronicle is producing a multi segment documentary film. A campaign for Bernie’s home care has been launched and the outpour of community support and donations has been tremendous. Gofundme.com/sendberniehome.
Bernie and the band made a profoundly moving video for one of the songs, “Unusual Boy” and submitted it to Bob Boilen at NPR for the “Tiny Desk” video contest. The video features Goldman and the band performing at Bernie’s bedside at his nursing home. It is directed by Ari Gold with live sound recorded by David Simon-Baker. Essence sings to Bernie, while Rocha accompanies on guitar, Berkman plays cello and Adrienne Biggs plays violin. Bob Boilen was so touched by the video that he personally featured the song and the story behind the music on ALL SONGS CONSIDERED extolling its heartbreaking beauty. Says Bob Boilen of NPR, “It is, at once, devastating and beautiful.” The producers of ALL THINGS CONSIDERED followed shortly thereafter and aired yet another feature.
Bernie & The Believers
NPR All Things Considered
‘He Wants To Be Remembered’: Tiny Desk Contestant Finds His Voice While Fighting ALS
NPR All Songs Considered
New Mix: Young Fathers, Confidence Man, A Stunning Tiny Desk Contest Entry, More
Essence is the voice, producer, and co-writer on Bernie’s album, “Connection.” 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. The record is now complete and released under the band name ‘Bernie and The Believers featuring Essence’ and is available now on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and Google Play.
Visit Bernie & The Believers official website:
The story and music of Essence’s band ‘Bernie and the Believers’ is being developed into a major Hollywood feature film on which Essence will be a co-producer in partnership with Weed Road Pictures/ Paramount and John Legend with his team ‘Get Lifted.’