Alan Jackson Reveals Degenerative Nerve Condition Is Affecting His 'Mobility and Balance'

The country star said it was a "relief" to go public with his health woes 10 years after his Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease diagnosis

alan jackson
Alan Jackson. Photo: Mickey Bernal/FilmMagic

Country superstar Alan Jackson is opening up about his longstanding private health battle.

Jackson, 62, revealed on the TODAY show Tuesday that for the past 10 years, he's been dealing with a degenerative nerve condition called Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, which is slowly affecting his ability to walk and perform on stage.

"I've been reluctant to talk about this publicly and to my fans, but it's been a while, and it's starting to affect my performance on stage a little bit where I don't feel comfortable," he said in an interview with Jenna Bush Hager. "I just wanted the fans and the public to know if they've come to see me in the last few years or if they come to see me in the future if I play anymore, what's going on."

"I don't want them to think I'm drunk on stage because I'm having problems with mobility and balance. I have this neuropathy, neurological disease I inherited from my daddy," he added.

Jackson said his late father had the disease, as did his paternal grandmother and older sister. Charcot-Marie-Tooth affects the nerves that control the muscles, and is relatively common, affecting an estimated 2.6 million people worldwide, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

While there is no known cure, it can be managed with supportive therapy, and it rarely affects the muscles involved in vital functions such as breathing.

The "Gone Country" singer said that while he's dealt with the illness for a decade, it's now becoming "more and more obvious" as it affects his balance on stage.

"I just want people to know that's why I look like I do, if they're wondering," he explained about taking the news public. "I don't want to appear like some whiny celebrity. It's not going to kill me, it's not deadly… It's not fatal — it's just going to disable me eventually."

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Jackson said that the disease has not affected his voice, and that he hopes to continue recording music and performing for as long as he's able. His most recent album, Where Have You Gone, came out in May.

"I've had a wonderful, beautiful life, and I've been so blessed. I can't even imagine what other people go through," he said. "This is not a condition that I would be complaining about typically, but it is going to affect me performance-wise on stage, and I don't know how much I'll continue to tour."

The Country Music Hall of Famer added that he'd always admired stars like Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Charley Pride and Loretta Lynn who toured well into their golden years, and hoped that he'd be able to follow in their footsteps.

Still, he noted that he didn't want pity from his fans, as "this is just something that is part of life," and that he only wanted to ensure they understand why his performances might look a little different.

"In some ways it's a relief because I was starting to get so self-conscious up there, about stumbling around," Jackson said. "And it just made me nervous up there trying to keep my balance. And I look pitiful. So I think it'll be good for me now to get it out in the open and so if anybody's curious why I don't walk right, that's why."

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