The Story Behind "Before You Go"March 1, 2016
In the early morning hours of a summer evening in 2002, Dr. Sam Bierstock was returning from a cross-country trip.
Better known as "Dr. Sam" to millions of people, the doctor had just performed an engagement with his band, "Dr. Sam & the Managed Care Blues Band ®". A professional musician and entertainer as well as a physician, Dr. Sam had been entertaining and making political commentary using satire, great music and humor since 1996 when he formed the band. With performances in more than forty states, and many thousands of CDs sold, Dr. Sam had been taking on managed care and it's impact on healthcare in the United States with such riotous tunes as "You Picked A Fine Time To Leave Me Blue Shield", "You're One Hip Mama ('Cause They Won't Pay For Two)", and many others. His music with a message and good-natured humorous commentary had been featured nationally on CNN, National Public Radio, People Magazine, USA Today and many other national forums.
On this particular evening, Dr. Sam was tired. He had parted with his band members and was headed home from a cross-country gig that had returned him to his home base in Florida at 1 AM. After retrieving his car from the parking lot, he handed his parking ticket to the elderly man in the collection booth. Retrieving his change, Dr. Sam wished the attendant a good evening. He was somewhat startled when he received an unexpected angry and resentful reply. " I took two bullets for this country," the attendant responded, "and look what I am doing now!"
Uncertain as to how to respond initially, Dr. Sam pocketed his change, rolled up his window and began to drive off. The time that it took to drive ten or fifteen feet from the toll booth was enough for him to digest what had just happened. With no one behind him, Dr. Sam backed up, rolled down his window and addressed the elderly attendant. "Sir", he said, " I have had a wonderful life in this country, and I want to thank you sincerely for what you did to preserve our way of life in this country." Saying nothing in response, the man began to cry.
As he drove home in those early morning hours, Dr. Sam was haunted by what had just occurred. As a 'Baby Boomer" his early years of life were within a decade of the end of the Second World War. His step-father had been wounded in Italy, and other family members had served in the armed forces. Distant relatives had perished in the holocaust. What would have happened, he thought, if we had lost World War Two to Hitler and his Nazi henchmen? He realized that not only would our entire way of life and system of freedom been destroyed, his parents and grandparent would have been killed, he would never have been born and his children would not exist. The same fate would have been met by virtually all other members of minorities, many religious groups, and the disabled. The personal freedoms that we take so much for granted would have disappeared. "How", he thought, "do you thank someone enough for the existence of your children, and for all of the freedoms and opportunities that we all take so much for granted?"
The next morning, Dr. Sam wrote the lyrics to "Before You Go". The lyrics came easily to him since they came so much from the heart. The challenge then came in setting them to music.
For months he struggled with finding just the right musical genre. Should it be a patriotic song resounding with majesty, or a country tune? He had consulted several well known and successful professional song writers who felt that his lyrics were more of a "poem" than song lyrics and suggested that he re-work them. But what he had written was what he felt, so he resisted a change in wording. He sent the lyrics to fellow musicians, and to authors of film scores. No one seemed to take interest or express a willingness to tackle the lyrics and the message.
During the summer of 2005, Dr. Sam was on his way to yet another gig with his band. The band had a new keyboard player, John Melnick. Classically trained as a pianist, and a seasoned singer and entertainer, John was on his first road trip with the band with scheduled stops in Philadelphia and Scottsdale. Walking through one of the airports, Dr. Sam casually mentioned to John that he had been struggling with putting some lyrics to music and couldn't seem to find the right fit. "Let me take a shot at it," john offered. The result was "Before You Go"
With the music provided by John Melnick, Dr. Sam went into the studio with John and his production team, John Catalano and Newell Bate. With Andy Russell on drums, John Catalano on guitar and bass, Dr. Sam on harmonica, and John Melnick providing both keyboard and vocals, and Peter White harmonizing, "Before you Go" became a reality at last.
Feeling that they had produced a very high quality "demo" recording, Dr. Sam and John began "shopping" the song in an effort to interest a well-known celebrity singer, certain that a highly recognizable and popular singer would assure that their message of thanks would be spread more quickly if it was recorded by someone of national stature as a recording artist. As negotiations continued, time continued to pass. Acutely aware that the veterans of World War Two were being lost to age and time at a rate of 1,000 to 2,000 per day, they made the decision to release their recording for free listening on the Internet, in the hope that the message would be spread by those who heard their tune and forwarded it on to others. To enhance the impact of the song, Dr. Sam created a visual presentation to accompany the display of his lyrics, attempting to include as many of the branches of service of the armed forces, the allies, both sexes, and as many ethnic groups as possible in order to fortify a recognition of all who had done so much to preserve our way of life - and our very lives.
Within one week, "Before You Go" was being downloaded at a rate of 400 to 500 downloads per day. By the end of the first six weeks, downloads totaled more than 450,000 peaking at 50,000 per day at one point.
Emails began to pour in, with profound expressions of gratitude for the recognition extended to World War Two veterans by the song - not just from veterans of that war themselves, but from veterans of all of the wars since, people in active service, and especially from the sons, daughters and grandchildren of the veterans of World War Two.
As can be seen by reading page after page of excerpts to follow, these notes contained a common thread. Sons and daughters told of their parents and grandparents never talking about what they had seen or experienced during the war. Just as "Before You Go" expressed;
"You never boasted, bragged or asked
For adulation for your past
You did the job you knew was right
And quietly you cry at night."
Our thanks go to all of those who have listened to 'Before you Go" at www.beforeyougo.us, and passed it on to friends, family, radio and television stations, printed media, religious groups and organizations of all types.
Dr. Sam's and John Melnick's goal from the beginning has been to get this message to every surviving veteran of World War Two while we still have them, to their families and to their descendants. "Before You Go" has had its own life, thanks to all of you who have helped to spread this message of thanks.