Paul Bergen: Gentle artist, voice of thunder

Paul Bergen:  Gentle artist, voice of thunder
Paul Bergen was an artist in every sense of the word and a tireless advocate for the arts. Photo courtesy of Jim Babwe

The posting reads simply: “Bergen, A. Paul 01/06/1939 ~ 07/06/2013 ENCINITAS — Born in Wasco, Calif., A. Paul Bergen was an accomplished singer, musician, artist, and writer, with an MA in Philosophy of Religion from USC. He passed away peacefully with his wife, Linda, and daughter, Shani, by his side.” 

These few words scarcely begin to hint at who A. Paul Bergen was in life.

According to fellow professional singer and longtime friend Stan Beard, “A more manly man never existed… His spirit could never be crushed” in spite of a diagnosis of polio at age 13 that prevented Bergen from following his early dreams.

According to Jim Babwe of Encinitas “Paul created and defined his life by working through hardship, answering challenges with accomplishments… The way Paul responded to challenges in his own life made him an inspiring teacher, one who instructs by example.”

With the natural gift of a deep, resonant voice, in 1960 Bergen became a professional singer, performing and recording with notables such as John Williams, Norman Luboff, Roger Wagner and Fred Waring.

His many movie soundtrack credits include “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Damien: Omen II.” As a studio singer, his voice was recorded on over 8,000 radio and television commercials and he was nationally recognized as a voice-over artist and narrator, featured for 30 years as the voice of Disney on Ice.

Musician Peter Sprague recalls their first meeting: “A. Paul had music flowing through him from a deep place.

What blew me away was the dude that was singing the bass part had such a fire and intensity he was shaking the speakers loose… and all of this emanating from a guy zipping around with crutches. “

In 1964 A. Paul met Linda Wallace, who at age 17 was thought by her parents to be much too young for the 25-year-old man. Married since 1968, they proved to be a perfect match as the couple was inseparable for 45 years. Carolyn Cope of Encinitas reflects, “The love they shared was electric.”

Relocating from Los Angeles to Encinitas with Linda and their daughter Shani in 1980, Bergen continued his career in spoken and musical voice work but later expanded into the visual and literary arts.

Singer-songwriter Steve Denyes says, “A. Paul was an artist in every sense of the word [but] more than that, he was a tireless advocate for the arts working behind the scenes to create opportunities for other artists and supporting them along the way.” As board member of the 101 Artists’ Colony since 2002, Bergen contributed time and energy towards furthering community arts.

Longtime friend Billy Stewart of Encinitas says, “Paul supported the arts in a truly heart-felt way, that is to say with his wallet out, not just the typical ‘I love art!’ lip service.”

Stewart recalls, “After a life of music Paul one day decided to try painting… He could sing in bursts with the thunder of Zeus and assumed something similar might be coaxed from tubes of paint… These bursts resembled to him the birth of a small star or planet spewing fragments of light, and he dubbed them the “Nebula” series.”

According to Bergen’s published artist statement, “The Nebulas represent for me a visual expression of my evolving concept of the God of creation, which I see as an ever evolving, all encompassing, fluid force… always changing, ever expanding; and the creative impulse flows without ceasing throughout the vast universe of its Being.”

Creating without ceasing is what A. Paul actualized in life. In 2000 his first book “Masonville” was published, followed by “Naked in the Tub with Vera” in 2010 and “The Undressing of Kathy Howard” in 2012.

Stan Beard says, “His books, so cherished by those of us who knew their author, provided a glimpse of his intellect, right alongside his simple upbringing, carnal desires, social views, and devilishly funny, wonderfully off-putting ability to make people both squirm and laugh.”

In his final manuscript “Death of a Mennonite” Bergen wrote, “The purpose of this universe is to create life, and the purpose of life is to enjoy the universe… For all of the pain and suffering we may bear, see the heavens on a starry night, a butterfly in flight, touch a lover’s lips or hand; it’s all good, it’s all right…”

Many will agree with Stan Beard as he says, “This world is a lesser place without the unique creation God fashioned in A. Paul Bergen.”

Kay Colvin is director of the L Street Fine Art Gallery in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, serves as an arts commissioner for the City of Encinitas, and specializes in promoting emerging and mid-career artists. Contact her at kaycolvin@lstreetfineart.com.

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