Bernie and the Believers feat. essence: Tiny Desk Concert

The story of Bernie and the Believers is the most powerful I’ve ever come across at the Tiny Desk. It’s about a beautiful act of compassion that ultimately led to this performance, and left me and my coworkers in tears.

I discovered the music of Bernie Dalton among the thousands of Tiny Desk Contest entries we received earlier this year. The band’s singer, Essence Goldman, had submitted the entry and shared Bernie’s story. You can hear her tell it in her own words at the Tiny Desk (and I choke up every time I hear it) but she said that a few years ago, Bernie — a father, a songwriter and a musician in his mid-forties, and an avid surfer with a day job as a pool cleaner — answered an ad Essence Goldman posted offering voice lessons. In addition to being a singer, she was a performer trying to manage her own career as a single mom, and Bernie was trying to improve his talents.

Bernie drove 90-minutes from Santa Cruz to San Francisco, eagerly showing up early to his voice lessons with Essence. But not long after they started working together, Bernie lost his voice. They didn’t think much of a it at first, but then things got worse. He had trouble swallowing and eating. Essence encouraged Bernie to see a doctor and after some tests Bernie Dalton was diagnosed with bulbar-onset ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. He began to lose the use of his hands and, along with it, the ability to play guitar.

With a prognosis of only one-to-three years left to live, Essence offered to raise money so that Bernie and his daughter could travel together. But what Bernie wanted more than anything was to make a record. So he asked Essence to not just be his voice teacher, but his voice. From there, they got to business. Essence pulled together a team of producers, engineers and musicians, while Bernie guided the creative direction through gestures and a dry-erase board. They wrote and recorded a new song every day. Their first single, “Unusual Boy,” was the one they included in their 2018 Tiny Desk Contest entry.

Now Bernie’s friends have gathered here in Washington, D.C. to perform his songs. All the while, Bernie watched and listened from his hospital bed on the West coast, communicating with us in a live video feed through his eye-gaze device. What you are about to witness is the ultimate act of love: Essence sacrificing her own musical ambitions to fulfill the dreams of Bernie Dalton. Through tragedy there was beauty.

Set List

  • “Unusual Boy”

  • “In Your Shoes”
  • “Simon’s Hero”


Producers: Bob Boilen, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Kaylee Domzalski, Beck Harlan; Editor: Production Assistant: Brie Martin; Photo: Cameron Pollack/NPR

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R.I.P. HAL: Douglas Rain, Voice Of Computer In '2001,' Dies At 90

Douglas Rain in Canada, July of this year.

Jeff Goode/Toronto Star via Getty Images

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Jeff Goode/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Douglas Rain, a Shakespeare actor who provided the eerie, calmly homicidal voice of HAL in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, has died at the age of 90.

The Canadian actor died Sunday morning, according to the Stratford Festival, where Rain spent 32 seasons acting in such roles such as Othello‘s Iago and Twelfth Night‘s Malvolio. He was also a founding member of the company. The Winnipeg-born actor had dozens of theater, film and television credits.

However, Rain’s biggest mark on pop culture was less Shakespearean, but perhaps just as much a classic: as 2001‘s HAL 9000, a sentient, rogue computer in a film written in collaboration with science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke and widely regarded as Kubrick’s masterpiece. The American Film Institute ranked HAL as the 13th greatest movie villain of all time.

Kubrick was reportedly inspired to cast Rain after viewing Universe, a 1964 animated documentary narrated by the actor.

At first, HAL, self-described as “foolproof and incapable of error,” is a sturdy member of an astronaut crew headed for Jupiter, keeping spaceship functions running smoothly and maintaining friendly if unemotional relationships with its crew mates — Dr. David Bowman, Dr. Frank Poole and three others making the journey in suspended animation.

When HAL seemingly makes an error, it leads Poole and Bowman to decide to shut the computer down. But HAL goes into self-preservation mode, leading to the deaths of all the crew except Bowman, who ultimately manages to deactivate HAL. Rain’s steady monotone making the events all the more unnerving.


As NPR’s movie critic Bob Mondello said earlier this year:

“I remember the chill of realizing HAL’s unblinking red eye could read lips. The audience learns that in a sequence that’s nonverbal, a shot from HAL’s point of view that zeroes in on the astronauts mouths because Kubrick wanted to tell the story not with words but with majestic, peripheral-vision-filling images.”

Mondello continued, “The thing that captured the audience’s imagination back then more even than a chatty computer decades before Siri and Alexa was that unnervingly, HAL had a mind of his own.”

When HAL is finally shut down — the computer famously singing “Daisy Bell” as Rain’s sonorous voice gradually fades away.

“Douglas shared many of the same qualities as Kubrick’s iconic creation; precision, strength of steel, enigma and infinite intelligence, as well as a wicked sense of humor,” Antoni Cimolino, artistic director of the Stratford Festival, told The London Free Press.

“He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family,” the Stratford Company said.

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EXCLUSIVE: Michelle Obama Reads From Her Forthcoming Memoir 'Becoming'

NPR host Audie Cornish interviews former first lady Michelle Obama about her memoir Becoming in Chicago, Ill., Nov. 2.

Chuck Kennedy for NPR

Michelle Obama’s new memoir Becoming, about her life from childhood through the White House years, comes out Tuesday. NPR was provided an exclusive listen Monday to two sections of the audio book, read by Obama herself.

In the first, Obama focuses on her impressions of Princeton, being a minority there, and college life. “The hope was that all of us would mingle in heterogeneous harmony,” she says of the university’s vision for the various races. But, she says, the burden was placed on the minority students.

In the second excerpt, Obama reads about the period of time when her husband, former president Barack Obama, was an Illinois senator — and they were trying to start a family. “I treated it like a mission,” she says. “No matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t seem to come up with a pregnancy.” She had a miscarriage and, later, the couple conceived their two daughters through IVF treatments.

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Death Toll In California Wildfires Climbs To At Least 31

As the Camp Fire burns nearby, a scorched car rests by gas pumps on Sunday near Pulga, Calif., a community located in Northern California’s Butte County.

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Noah Berger/AP

Wildfires continued to tear through Northern and Southern California, where firefighters were at the mercy of parched air and increased winds fanning the deadly blazes. At least 31 people have died statewide.

Authorities in Northern California said Sunday six more bodies were found in the scorched path of the so-called Camp Fire, which earlier was blamed for 23 deaths. Two people have been reported dead in a fire zone of Southern California.

As of Sunday night, the Camp Fire was only 25 percent contained at 111,000 acres, the Butte County Fire Department and Cal Fire said in a joint press conference.

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Dan Crenshaw, Navy SEAL And Congressman-elect, Takes To 'SNL' For A Teachable Moment

In this Nov. 10, 2018 photo provided by NBC, Lt. Com. Dan Crenshaw, left, a congressman-elect from Texas, appears next to comedian Pete Davidson during Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” in New York.

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Will Heath/Will Heath/NBC via AP

Thirty years ago, Congress was more than half veterans — many from the World War Two generation. Recently, that number has hovered around 20 percent — a decline that some observers link to a loss of civil discourse and bipartisan compromise. With only about 1 percent of Americans serving, there’s also a gap of understanding between vets and civilians.

Which is what brings comedian Pete Davidson into this story.

Davidson made a joke on Saturday Night Live the weekend before Election Day, making fun of Texas Republican Dan Crenshaw for wearing a black eye-patch. Crenshaw lost his eye to a bomb-blast during his third combat deployment. He recovered, remained in active duty, and deployed twice more before a medical retirement in 2016. A year later, he returned to Texas and launched a bid for Congress.

Social media took umbrage on his behalf, but Crenshaw got the last laugh — as well as a chance to push a message he held throughout his run for Congress.

On Saturday, four days after he won his race, Crenshaw appeared next to Davidson on SNL, and after roasting the comedian with a bunch of prepared jokes, he accepted his apology. Crenshaw then offered up a lesson about civility in politics.

“The left and right can still agree on some things,” Crenshaw said, adding that “Americans can forgive one another. We can remember what brings us together as a country and still see the good in each other.”

Saturday Night Live via YouTube

The remark wasn’t out of character for Crenshaw, or for the dozens of other veterans who ran for Congress in this year’s midterm election. At least 16 new veterans were elected to the House, according to a tally by the University of San Francisco and the non-profit Veterans Campaign.

“What’s exciting about this group of vets that have won, is that they’ve committed to talk to each other, and get things done,” says former Marine Rye Barcott.

It’s not just rhetoric, Barcott said. He has the commitment in writing.

Barcott leads a superPAC called With Honor, which funded dozens of veteran candidates, both Republicans and Democrats. All those candidates, including Crenshaw, signed a pledge to meet with members of the opposite party, co-sponsor legislation and serve with civility.

“The core of the mission is serving in a cross partisan way. Lord knows we need it right now,” said Barcott.

As rare as that sort of cooperation is these days, Democratic representative-elect Mikie Sherrill said it’s what her constituents in New Jersey told her they wanted.

“Certainly the issues that people are concerned about are tax reform, health care reform, infrastructure spending,” said the former Navy pilot, “But then the narrative beyond all that is, you know, ‘Mikie, can you just promise me that you’re going to go try to get Congress to work again, that you’re going to put the country first and not spend all your time and effort fighting Republicans?’ “

Sherrill is one of several female veterans heading to Congress in January and a notable number of female combat pilots who ran, including MJ Hegar of Texas, who flew medivac choppers in Afghanistan; Amy McGrath of Kentucky, who flew jets in Iraq and Afghanistan; and Arizona’s Martha McSally, who flew a fighter jet in Iraq. Hegar and McGrath both lost narrowly. Votes are still being counted in McSally’s Senate race against Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.

Sherrill says vets may have been brave, or naïve, or both about running.

“A lot of the veterans myself included that stood up to run this cycle, ran in districts that most people said at the beginning … were unwinnable,” she said.

Sherrill flipped a seat in New Jersey’s 11th district that had been controlled by the GOP since 1982.

Americans rank Congress among the least respected public institutions, but hold the military in the highest regard, according to polls. Candidates like Crenshaw and Sherrill say their military service has fostered a baseline of respect and pragmatism they hope will spread in the next Congress — and continue as a new generation of veterans begins to enter politics.

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