Alan Jackson has revealed that he is living with a degenerative nerve condition that is impacting his ability to tour and perform. Speaking exclusively to Jenna Bush Hager on NBC’s Today, the country superstar divulged the news that he has inherited a rare condition known as CMT (Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disorder).
“I’ve been reluctant to talk about this publicly and to my fans, but I have this neuropathy,” says Jackson, “a neurological disease that’s genetic that I inherited from my daddy. There’s no cure for it, but it’s been affecting me for years. And it’s getting more and more obvious.”
Jackson has been living with the condition since it was first diagnosed a decade ago. CMT causes abnormalities in the nerves that supply the feet, legs, hands, and arms, affecting motor and sensory nerves. It’s relatively rare, but hereditary. Jackson says that both his father and grandmother suffered with it, and his oldest sister also has it. CMT is progressive, and is related to such conditions as muscular dystrophy and Parkinson’s disease.
“It’s not going to kill me – it’s not deadly,” Jackson continues. “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. 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.”
The effects of Jackson’s condition include muscle weakness, discomfort, and pain, especially when standing for long periods on stage. He has continued to perform live during the ten years he has known his diagnosis. In 2021 alone, he has played a run of concerts and staged a major fundraiser event in his Georgia hometown of Newnan that drew more than 20,000 people and raised more than $2,000,000 to help victims of the March tornado there.
“I never wanted to do the retirement tour like people do and then take a year off and then come back,” he says. Of personal heroes Merle Haggard, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, and Charley Pride, he says: “They never retired; just played as much as they could or want to. I always thought I’d like to do that, and I would like to do that if my health will let me. I don’t know how much I’ll continue to tour. I’m not saying I won’t be able to tour. I’ll try to do as much as I can.”
Indeed, Jackson will give a full-length concert next week, as he plays Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on October 8. “I don’t want people to be sad for me; it’s just part of life,” he concludes. “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.”