Man with Alzheimer's still striving to make new music

PORTLAND, Ore. -- We may have the perfect Christmas story. It's about a musical gift that was lost, then found.

To welcome us to Portland, Oregon, 68-year-old Steve Goodwin would like to play one of his songs for you. You have no idea how much he would like to play one of his songs for you.

"It made me almost hate the piano," Goodwin said. "But then I realized it's not the piano's fault, it's this thing that's going on in my brain."

Three years ago, Steve was diagnosed Alzheimer's disease.  He had to give up his job as a software designer, but as we first reported a few months ago, his wife Joni says the cruelest part is the toll it has taken on the music he composed.

"Losing the songs would be like losing him," she said.


Steve and Joni Goodwin

CBS News

Steve and Joni have been married 47 years, and along the way, Steve composed more than two dozen songs, mostly for her. He played them daily, and they became the soundtrack of their lives.  

Unfortunately, he never wrote down most of them. So when his memory started failing -- and the songs started fading -- there was no way to get them back. Until a family friend, a professional pianist, offered to launch a rescue mission.

"I said if he can at least play through it, even in pieces, I can learn it," said Naomi Laviolette.


Steve Goodwin and Naomi Laviolette

CBS News

For the past two years, Laviolette has been reconstructing his compositions, note by note. Of course, they're recording the songs, so they never get lost again.

"I realized there was a part of him that wasn't going to fade away," said Joni.

But this may be the best part: With Naomi's help, Steve was able to write a new song.

Although he now forgets entire conversations, and can no longer add even single-digit numbers, somehow his mind dreamed up the new song.

After this story first aired, a CD they made was discovered by Billboard. Screenwriters want to make a movie. And in what's probably the biggest thrill for Steve, the Oregon Repertory Singers recently performed his new song, "Melancholy Flower."

Alzheimer's steals a lot, but this Christmas we score one for the beauty left behind.

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  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.