Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson has revealed that he is “suffering from an incurable lung disease”. The rock legend added that his “days are numbered” in a conversation with Dan Rather for the veteran newsman’s show The Big Interview, airing Wednesday night (May 13th) on AXS TV.
In a preview clip, Rather asked Anderson about the rigors of singing and playing flute onstage, to which Anderson responded, “I’m going to tell you something I’ve never told anybody in public before — I am suffering from an incurable lung disease which I was diagnosed with a couple of years back.”
He continued, “I do struggle. I have what are called exacerbations — periods when I get an infection that turns into severe bronchitis and I have maybe two or three weeks when it’s really a tough job to go out there on stage and play. Fingers crossed, I’ve gone 18 months now without an exacerbation and I’m on medication. If I’m kept in a reasonably pollution-free environment in terms of air quality, I do okay. But my days are numbered.”
Anderson added, “It’s not yet at the point that it affects my day-to-day life — I can still run for the bus.” Rather then asked the musician about his prognosis, and Anderson replied, “Fight it all the way — keep using as much of your lung power as you’re lucky enough to have and push it to the limit all the time.”
As for the specificity of the disease, Anderson said that it’s “termed COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease], where you lose some of the ability of your lungs to give you enough oxygen.”
Update, May 14th: Ian Anderson has issued a lengthy statement to clarify his comments, stating, “I really meant when talking to Dan Rather … that my days as a singer were numbered, rather than days to live!” Read the full statement here.
The 72-year-old rocker pointed to fog machines as a major culprit, stating, “I’ve spent 50 years of my life onstage among those wretched things that I call smoke machines. Today, they’re politely referred to as hazers, as if they’re somehow innocent and not damaging to you lungs. I really do believe that’s a very significant part of the problem I have.”
Coincidentally, Jethro Tull’s most successful album is 1971’s Aqualung, which has been certified triple platinum in the United States. The band also won the first-ever Grammy for metal/hard rock in 1989, infamously beating out favorites Metallica despite Jethro Tull’s winning album, Crest of a Knave, not really considered metal or hard rock.
Here’s wishing the best to Ian Anderson in his fight with COPD. See the preview clip of The Big Interview below, and watch the full conversation between Rather and Anderson tonight at 8 p.m. ET on AXS TV.