Ian Anderson, Jethro Tull Frontman, Reveals He Has ‘Incurable Lung Disease’

J. Kim Murphy

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UPDATED: After this and other articles derived from Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson’s interview with Dan Rather, the singer clarified some of his comments with the following statement:

“Thanks for your concern but no worries about my diagnosed COPD and Asthma,” he wrote. “I have had 14 months with no infections and no bronchitis so last year was the first since my 20s when I didn’t get sick at all. The conditions I have are early-stage and I plan to keep them that way.  

“I really meant when talking to Dan Rather last September that my days as a singer were numbered rather than days to live! After all, I am 73 years old this August! But I should be OK for a few more years if COVID doesn’t get me first. 

“I am at no more risk of catching the COVID virus than anyone else. Just that the results could be much worse than if I was 17 or even 27.  If anything, I am less likely to catch it than many people as I have been practising very safe hygiene for years and social distancing is a way of life for me! I am well rehearsed in public spaces, restaurants, hotels etc. Only flying causes me concern. But I have all the best gels, sprays, masks and facial protection ready for if and when the time comes to embark into the real world professionally. 

“A mild COPD or asthma are just things to live with for the millions around the world who suffer. But no impact at all on my daily life as long as I don’t catch a cold or flu virus and suffer the subsequent heavy bronchitis which, for me, historically follows since I was a young man. But on the upside I don’t suffer from Hemorrhoids or erectile disfunction. So, things are looking up, not down. (Puns fully intended.) –Ian Anderson, May 14, 2020”

Ian Anderson, the frontman of the rock band Jethro Tull, has revealed that he has been “suffering from an incurable lung disease” for years.

The 72-year-old musician made his health condition public in a conversation with Dan Rather on the journalist’s show “The Big Interview.” While the discussion will air Wednesday night on AXS TV, a preview clip features footage of Anderson sharing the news.

“I do struggle,” Anderson said. “I have what are called exacerbation periods where I get an infection and it turns into severe bronchitis and I have maybe two or three weeks of [it being] really a tough job to go onstage and play.”

Anderson identified his condition as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a disease that obstructs airflow from the lungs. The singer also discussed how he has gone 18 months without an exacerbation, saying he has treated his condition by medicating, avoiding areas with heavy pollution and continuing to keep his lungs fit by pushing them to their limits.

“It’s not yet at the point that it affects my day-to-day life,” Anderson said. “I can still run for the bus.”

Anderson also blamed his frequent stage performances around fog machines as the culprit for him contracting the disease. “I’ve spent 50 years of my life onstage among those wretched things that I call smoke machines,” he said. “Today, they’re politely referred to as hazers, as if they’re somehow innocent and not damaging to your lungs. I really do believe that’s a very significant part of the problem I have.”

Last fall, Anderson announced his intent to finish and release a new album this year.

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