Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson reveals 'incurable lung disease' diagnosis

Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson has revealed that he’s battling an “incurable” lung condition.

The 72-year-old flutist revealed that he’s been battling chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) for at least “a couple of years.”

“I’m going to tell you something I’ve never told anybody in public before,” said Anderson, when asked how he’s able to jump around onstage, sing and play flute at the same time at his age — as heard in a snippet of a soon-to-be broadcast episode of Dan Rather‘s The Big Interview, obtained by Rolling Stone.

“Since it’s you,” he added, referring to Rather, 88, “I will take this moment to say I am suffering from an incurable lung disease with which I was diagnosed a couple of years back.”

COPD is a progressive, long-term lung disease in which the airways of a carrier become swollen and partly blocked, according to the Canadian Lung Association.

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The organization reports that COPD also consists of two major breathing diseases emphysema and chronic bronchitis — the latter, which Anderson touched upon during his chat with the veteran American journalist.

He said: “I do struggle. I have what are known as exacerbations: Periods when I get an infection, it turns into severe bronchitis and I have maybe two or three weeks of really a tough job to go out there onstage and play.”

Typically, the disease worsens over time and while it is incurable, it is manageable with the correct treatment as echoed by the British musician in the interview.

Ian Anderson, right, of British band Jethro Tull performs in Pori, Finland in 2017.

Ian Anderson, right, of British band Jethro Tull performs in Pori, Finland in 2017.

Lehtikuva / Martti KainuIainen

He added that his “medication” kept him in check and that as long as he is “kept in a reasonably pollution-free environment — in terms of air quality,” then he does “OK.”

“Fingers crossed,” said Anderson, before revealing it had been 18 months since his last exacerbation.

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Despite saying his “days are numbered,” Anderson remained positive, saying that his diagnosis was “not yet at the point where it affects day-to-day life.”

“I can still run for the bus,” he joked.

When asked what he thought might be the cause of his illness, the Aqualung singer called back to the last five decades of his music career being surrounded by “smoke machines.”

“Today, lightly referred to as ‘hazers,'” he said, “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 that I have.”

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), “prolonged exposure to this (smoke from fog machines) could trigger severe respiratory difficulty and could cause bronchitic symptoms” in those with or without asthma.

“Long term exposure to smoke and fog can result in upper airway and voice symptoms as well, while extended exposure to smoke and fog has been associated with both short-term and long-term respiratory health problems,” the medical association said on its website.

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Anderson co-founded Jethro Tull in 1967 in Blackpool, England.. Though the band parted ways in 2012, it reunited in 2017 and has been touring extensively ever since.

The progressive rock group is best known for songs like Locomotive BreathThick as a Brick and Cross Eyed Mary, as well as their critically acclaimed, fourth studio album Aqualung (1971).

Anderson’s theatrical and energetic stage presence is one of many things that earned the band international stardom.

View this post on Instagram

My dear pal Hungarian-born German producer, songwriter and bandleader Leslie Mandoki sent an email to me two days ago with the request to play a few lines of flute and sing along here and there on a new non-profit song he had just written. This is in the context of his own complete isolation in Germany where his doctor wife, Eva, is a first contact physician in their region of Bavaria. We have worked together for more than 20 years on various collaborations with his band Soulmates featuring the good and great of classic rock and jazz. My first reaction was – hopefully not another sanctimonious, self-serving and smug pop star utterance we can really do without. But – when I actually heard the master tracks and loaded them up in my audio recording software I was very touched by the simple and direct sentiments of the lyrics. So the usually-cynical and grumpy Mr A decided to give it a go. Of course, we all thank the brave, hardworking front-line medics and care workers around the world. But he managed to put into the lyrics references to the police, grocery clerks, supermarket workers too. Even the dark reference to the speculators making a killing from the current crisis. They know who they are. I would like to add to the list those essential worker folks who it was impossible to squeeze into a three minute song: the farmers and all those in food production, distribution and retail; the fishermen out there on the high seas; the refuse collectors; our military who continue to keep us safe; the delivery men and women who try to ensure our supplies with essentials; journalists and news-gatherers who keep us informed with often depressing but sometimes uplifting stories from around the world; the medical and economic advisors to governments who have to carry the can, if and when they get it wrong, as unfortunately they sometimes will in this ever-evolving and complex world situation. And, of course, all the other workers who continue to toil in the background to keep this world turning, if a little more slowly, for the the months to come. To all, we say, thank you. Ian Anderson & Leslie Mandoki #WeSayThankYou #StayAtHome

A post shared by Jethro Tull / Ian Anderson (@jethrotull_) on

While speaking with Rather, the Scottish-born musician jokingly described his typical gig as being “aerobic for two hours on stage.”

Anderson’s full, one-hour appearance on The Big Interview with Dan Rather premieres on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET via AXS TV.

adam.wallis@globalnews.ca

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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