Born in 1960 in Dublin, Ireland, Bernie Nolan began performing at an early age; she and her siblings often took the stage with their parents as the Singing Nolans. In the 1970s, Nolan became the lead singer of a group called the Nolan Sisters, whose biggest hit, "I'm in the Mood for Dancing," was released in 1980. She also branched out into acting, appearing on stage in Blood Brothers in London, England, in 1984, and joining the cast of the drama Brookside in 2000. Three years later, Nolan began starring on The Bill. She released a solo album, All By Myself, in 2005. In 2010, Nolan successfully battled breast cancer. She learned two years later, however, that the disease had returned. Nolan published a biography, Now and Forever, in 2013.
Born in Dublin, Ireland, on October 17, 1960, singer and actress Bernadette Therese "Bernie" Nolan comes from a large family: She's the second-youngest of eight children. Around the age of 2, Nolan moved with her family to Blackpool, England. Both of her parents, Tommy and Maureen, were professional singers, and they thought that relocating to Blackpool would provide them with more career opportunities.
Beginning at a very early age, Nolan performed with her parents and siblings in local clubs and halls. Their group was known as the Singing Nolans. According to some reports, however, family life off-stage was anything but a happy sing-along. Bernie's sister, Coleen, told the Daily Mail that their father was physically abusive to their mother; following similar sentiments, Bernie wrote about her father's drinking problem and violent outbursts in her 2013 memoir, Now and Forever.
In 1974, Bernie Nolan took center stage as the lead singer of the Nolan Sisters (later known simply as the Nolans), which also featured sisters Anne, Maureen, Linda and Denise. The quintet enjoyed great popularity in Britain, bolstering their fame with their numerous television appearances over the years, including performing on Cliff Richards's show. The Nolans also toured with legendary singer Frank Sinatra.
The Nolans nearly reached the top of the album charts in 1979 with the singles collection 20 Giant Hits. Their signature song, "I'm in the Mood for Dancing," was released the following year. Denise dropped out of the group around this same time, with sister Coleen soon taking her place. The Nolans enjoyed more chart success in the early 1980s with hits like "Chemistry."
After leaving the Nolans in 1994, Bernie Nolan pursued an acting career. She had enjoyed some success previously with the 1984 London production of Blood Brothers and its accompanying tour. She was also a frequent guest on the children's show On the Waterfront in the late 1980s.
In 2000, Nolan landed a role on the long-running drama Brookside. Three years later, she moved to the crime-drama The Bill, playing a police officer. While on The Bill, Nolan recorded her first solo album, All By Myself (2005); she donated the royalties from her single "Macushla" to the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society.
In 1998, Nolan and her husband, drummer Steve Doneathy, had a daughter, Kate, who was stillborn—the cause of a rare genetic disorder called Edwards syndrome.
Nolan left The Bill in 2005 and soon returned to the theater, appearing in a touring production of Mum's the Word. In 2008, she joined the cast of the musical Flashdance for several months.
Nolan reunited with her sisters for a new album, In the Mood Again, and tour in 2009. The following year, she received devastating news regarding her health: She was diagnosed with breast cancer, a disease that two of her sisters had previously battled and beaten. Nolan received treatment and was able to return to her active performing schedule. Also in 2010, Nolan starred and was one of the finalists on the British TV competition Popstar to Operastar.
In 2012, Nolan learned that her cancer had returned, and that it had spread to several parts of her body, including her lungs and brain. After learning that she was terminally ill, Nolan spent some time developing a wish list of adventures that she wanted to complete alongside her husband and teenage daughter, Erin (born in 1999). She also took to writing her life story, but became too ill to finish the project. Her husband subsequently stepped in to help out, and Nolan's book, Now and Forever, was published in May 2013.
Despite her grim diagnosis, Nolan has remained surprisingly positive about her life, telling the Daily Mail, "I tried to approach every day as a new beginning, and think, 'Right, what's next?' I couldn't sit around thinking, 'I'm going to die.'"
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