Friday, February 9th, 2018
Doors 7pm/ Show 8pm
A Celebration of the Triumph of Music Over ALS
Record Release for Bernie & Believers to raise funds for end of life care for Bernie Dalton. In 2017, Bernie was diagnosed with Bulbar Onset ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Surfer, songwriter, and devoted father of a 16 year old daughter, Bernie had an end of life wish to make a record of his songs. He wanted to leave a musical legacy for his future grandchildren that he would likely not live long enough to meet. He wanted them to know who he is, he wanted them to know his views of the world, and to convey his advice for living in the lyrics he wrote. Bernie had a vision, but since ALS had already robbed of him of his ability to speak or sing, he asked his voice coach singer/songwriter Essence Goldman to be his voice. Essence launched a Go Fund Me campaign, and the outpour of love and support from family, friends, and community made it possible to record an album of Bernie’s songs. An amazing musical team came together to produce this album of Bernie’s songs and the inspiration and collaborative experience was magic. We are thrilled to share this music with you all. Despite Bernie’s rapidly deteriorating health, he has shown that courage and creativity are greater than adversity. Please join us to celebrate community coming together for a cause greater than ourselves and the great healing power of music — with performances by Bernie & The Believers (Essence Goldman, Roger Rocha, Daniel Berkman, Mike Anderson, Erma Kyriakos, David Simon-Baker), Rainbow Girls, Actual Wolf, Avery Hellman + All Star Jam including Darren Nelson & Jeremy D'Antonio of San Geronimo, Misisipi Mike, Kendra Mc Kinkey, and many more!
Send Bernie Home
Meet Bernie Dalton. He doesn’t have a lot of time left. My name is Essence Goldman, and I am a singer/songwriter and vocal coach. Bernie is my voice student and friend. Until very recently, Bernie was a surfer who got up at 4am every morning to watch the sunrise from the waters of the Pacific Ocean in Santa Cruz, CA. Bernie was a wrestler through his high school years. He was strong, physically fit, and active his entire life. Bernie is also a down to earth, kind hearted, devoted single father to a beautiful 16 year old daughter named Nicole. Bernie has always had a passion for music and writing songs. He reached out to me for voice lessons in January 2016. Bernie showed up to each lesson filled with inspiration, songs to share, and 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.
We had no idea what caused Bernie to lose his voice. At first we thought his voice loss could be caused by chemical poisoning from chlorine because at the time he cleaned swimming pools for a living. He explored many possible causes but found no answers. During this time I began giving his daughter Nicole voice lessons. Since Bernie wasn’t able to sing we started working on lyrics for his songs. We talked about life as single parents. I was moved by Bernie’s deep love for Nicole. The bond they shared reminded me of the deep love I shared with my own father, who raised me as a single father and passed away suddenly from pancreatic cancer. Bernie began to notice new symptoms. He was having trouble swallowing and began drooling. Bernie saw a neurologist, and after a series of tests he was diagnosed with bulbar-onset ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, the most aggressive form of the disease. The life expectancy for people with bulbar-onset ALS is one to three years. Bernie was shocked and devastated. Bernie was 47.
I offered to help Bernie raise money to take his daughter Nicole on a trip anywhere in the world, to have an experience of a lifetime they would never forget. Bernie had another idea. He said his life wish was to make a record of his songs and have his daughter participate. Unable to speak or sing, and with his weakening arms making playing guitar next to impossible, Bernie asked me to be his voice and help him put melody and chords to his lyrics. No one ever asked such a thing of me before in my life. I was stopped in my tracks. I was in the middle of working on my own new album, but I felt I had to do this for Bernie. Together we wrote the first song called “Simon’s Hero.” Bernie wrote the words for his daughter Nicole’s future children who he would not likely live long enough to meet. The song reflects Bernie’s view of the world, and his advice for living. On the recording, his daughter Nicole is singing harmonies.
I launched a campaign on Go Fund Me to raise funds to record an entire album of Bernie’s songs. The response from friends, family, and community was immediate and we raised over $20,000. I called upon my most trusted musical collaborators, Roger Rocha, Daniel Berkman, and David Simon-Baker to help bring Bernie’s songs to life. When we began recording in June 2017, Bernie was driving himself to the sessions in his pickup truck. He was walking and able to use his hands. He was able to write on a dry erase board and give us hand signals to communicate his thoughts and direct the creative process. I will tell you this: two thumbs up from someone who can't speak means a lot. Each day we went to the studio, we wrote and recorded a complete song, starting with nothing but words in the morning, and having a finished master recording before ending the session at night. There were many laughs and many tears.
In the few short months we spent working on the album, Bernie lost the use of his left arm first, then his legs stiffened and he lost the ability to walk, and finally he lost the use of his right arm and hand. He can no longer give us the thumbs up. Bernie can no longer move any part of his body except his eyes. Like Stephen Hawking, Bernie now communicates by typing short phrases with his eyes, using a computer screen called an “Eye Gaze Device.” He selects letters with his eyes and spells words out one letter at a time. It’s not easy for him to use. His eye muscles get tired. But when he manages to spell out a word or a phrase, he can select an option for the computer to speak what he types — and in a computer voice the device speaks his words. Sometimes he makes the computer say a word three or four times in a row to make us all laugh. Bernie has an incredible sense of humor in spite of the adversity he is facing.
Making this album has allowed Bernie to focus on music and creativity instead of the devastating disease he is facing. This album has given Bernie something to look forward to. It has given Bernie meaning in his life and the ability to make the most of the time he has left. This album, along with his daughter Nicole, are his life’s legacy. Bernie’s album, “Connection,” is now complete and will be released with the band name Bernie and The Believers at Slim’s in San Francisco on February 9, 2018.
In November 2017, Go Fund Me contacted me to make a documentary film about Bernie’s life and the making of this record. They were drawn to the inspirational story of how the power of music and the making of Bernie’s record was a triumph over ALS. They were drawn to the generous community support that made it all possible. Nurses were hired to take care of Bernie during the shoot and transportation was arranged to take Bernie to and from the nursing home where Bernie is currently living to the recording studio. The nurses who cared for Bernie during the documentary shoot discovered that Bernie was being neglected at the nursing home. His mouth was not being irrigated or cleaned properly and he was experiencing extreme oral decay. This causes great risk for infection and illness. Bernie communicated that there had been many nights where he had gone 8-10 hours without a nurse checking in on him to change his diaper or give him his medications. Furthermore, his feeding tube did not have the proper padding and the friction against his skin was causing horrible sores to form. Bernie, who has been good natured and relaxed throughout this journey, is now experiencing extreme battles with anxiety. He is shaking uncontrollably for fear of not being able to communicate his needs.
This brings me to where Bernie is today. Bernie is living in a nursing home because his family cannot afford the costs of home care. Bernie hates being at the nursing home. He wants to be home with his family, enjoying the time he has left with his loved ones. The type of care Bernie requires costs staggering $12,000 per week.
The support of the community has helped Bernie's dream of making a great record come true.
But now our goal has changed.
Bernie does not have a lot of time left. Throughout his life, Bernie has touched many people with his kindness, humor and generous spirit. Now, he deserves to be given proper medical care and he deserves to spend his remaining days in the peace of his own home, surrounded by loving friends and family. We are launching a brand new campaign to raise funds for Bernie’s end of life care. The support of the community has helped Bernie's dream of making an amazing record come true, but now he needs us more than ever.
Nothing is more important to us than bringing Bernie home for his final days. We believe it is possible that with the help of friends, family, community, and beyond, we can share Bernie’s story far and wide and raise the money needed for Bernie’s home care. Please give what you can today, and share Bernie’s story wherever you can. Help Bernie get the proper care that he deserves. You can make the difference and give Bernie dignity and peace in his remaining days.
Let’s show Bernie our love.