Country music icon Alan Jackson has opened up about a startling personal health battle, revealing his fight with a degenerative nerve condition.
Appearing on NBC’s Today Tuesday (September 28), the 62-year-old star told Jenna Bush Hager he has a rare condition called Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disorder (CMT for short), which is effecting his ability to tour and perform.
“I’ve been reluctant to talk about this publicly and to my fans, but I have this neuropathy – a neurological disease that’s genetic that I inherited from my daddy,” Jackson told the show. “There’s no cure for it, but it’s been affecting me for years. And it’s getting more and more obvious.”
Speaking frankly for the first time, Jackson explained that he was diagnosed with CMT 10 years ago, and he’s been struggling against it ever since. The disease runs in the Jackson family (his father and grandmother also had it, and so does his older sister), and it causes problems with the nerves that control extremities — things like arms, legs, and feet. The result is pain and discomfort when Jackson has to stand onstage for long concerts, and as time goes on, the superstar finds it harder to balance in front of a microphone. That’s likely a big part of why Jackson has paired down his touring schedule in recent years, but he also told fans not to worry.
CMT is not deadly, just progressive, Jackson explained. He just thought it was time his fans know the truth.
“It’s not going to kill me – it’s not deadly,” Jackson said. “I know I’m stumbling around onstage, and now I’m having a little trouble balancing even in front of a microphone. I’m just very uncomfortable.”
“I was starting to get so self-conscious up there … so if anybody’s curious why I don’t walk right, that’s why,” he went on. “I just wanted the fans and the public to know. I don’t want ’em to think I’m drunk onstage because I’m having problems with mobility and balance.”
Fans will likely appreciate his honesty, and from here on out will surely be in the Georgia hit maker’s corner. But even though he plans to keep performing, lengthy tours may not be possible. That doesn’t mean he’ll stop booking shows, though, and nothing should really change with his concert schedule, since Jackson has already been focusing on one-off shows for a few years.
In 2021 for example, he raised $2 million with a fundraising concert for his hometown of Newman, Georgia, after it was struck with a deadly tornado. And on October 8, he’ll headline a massive show at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. In light of the news, that one will likely be an even more emotional homecoming than initially thought. But Jackson is quick to point out that he’s been living like this for years, and he’s come to terms with what it means.
“I don’t want people to be sad for me; it’s just part of life,” he said. “I’ve had a wonderful, beautiful life. I’ve been so blessed. It’s just good to put it out there in the open. In some ways, it’s a relief.”
Alan Jackson was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2017, and just released his Where Have You Gone album. He recently paired the title track with a music video featuring the “ghosts” of country stars like Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline. Check out his full interview with NBC’s Today in the video player above.