KINGSTON — Singer-songwriter Charles Lyonhart's scheduled appearance Tuesday night will be most unusual for him.
The lights won't go down. There'll be no spotlight to squint into, no guitar to tune. You could say he and his friend, known collectively if jocularly as The Liver Brothers, will be testifying before the Ulster County Legislature, because they've got a timely tale to tell.
Lyonhart would be dead by now if not for the existence of an outfit called UNOS and the impassioned badgering of his friend Butch Dener.
Lyonhart lived the freewheeling life of a musician back in the '70s and '80s. He never expected to have to pay the dues the aftermath of that lifestyle imposed on him. But more than a decade ago, he was diagnosed with hepatitis C.
The disease took its toll slowly, gradually destroying his liver, so that something so simple as walking across a room became a herculean task.
Depression and the certainty that his condition would never improve brought Lyonhart, 12 years after being diagnosed, to the edge of despair.
It didn't help that the music business is as Darwinian as they come.
"If you're sick, no one books you, simple as that," Lyonhart said.
When he first read about organ transplants, "it was science fiction," he said.
But his friend Dener, long-time road manager for The Band, who was himself suffering from hepatitis C, kept talking it up. Eventually, he got through.
Here's how Lyonhart put it on his new CD, in a song called "I Came Back:"
"It could have been so cool / To finally embrace it all / But wasn't I being foolish / To want to end it all / But then they'd remember / I gave up without a fight / So I came back."
Lyonhart received a new liver on Christmas Day 2005, three weeks after Dener got his.
Thus were two lives saved and The Liver Brothers born. The occasion of their appearance in legislative chambers Tuesday is National Donate Life Month, and their message is simple. Become an organ donor. Check out UNOS.org.
Help someone else, someone you don't know, come back from the edge.