Country legend Alan Jackson is opening up about his battle with a degenerative nerve condition, something he’s rarely talked about despite being diagnosed a decade ago.
The 62-year-old performer was diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease, which is known to damage muscles and compromise balance and movement. In a new interview with TODAY’s Jenna Bush Hager, Jackson admitted he’s been “reluctant to talk about it” publicly.
“It’s genetic. I inherited from my daddy. It’s called CMT ironically enough because CMT was a big part of my career,” he said with a chuckle.
The singer and songwriter said he’s been “self-conscious” on stage because it’s affected his ability to balance, especially in front of a crowd and in front of the microphone.
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“There’s no cure for it but it’s been affecting me for years. It’s getting more and more obvious. I know I’m stumbling around stage now. I’m having a little trouble balancing even in front of the microphone. I just feel very uncomfortable.”
Fortunately, the degenerative nerve disease is “not deadly,” he says, but likened it to the toll muscular dystrophy and Parkinson’s disease has on patients. Although he’s remained mum on his diagnosis, Jackson said it’s cathartic to speak up about it now.
“In some ways it’s a relief because I was starting to get so self-conscious up there about stumbling around. I think it’ll be good for me now to get it out in the open. If anybody’s curious at why I don’t walk right, that’s why,” he said.
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The country powerhouse also touched on a statement he said recently about the influence of pop in today’s country music hits people hear on the radio.
“I think real country music is really not part of mainstream country music anymore,” he said, adding, “I don’t want to sound like an old, bitter country singer, but, you know, it’s a different generation. I hate to see the real stuff disappear completely because I think it’s a great part of American history.”
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Jackson noted that country instruments, like the steel guitar and the fiddle, aren’t as prevalent in today’s generation of country.