Alabama's Randy Owen Feels 'Cheated' by Jeff Cook's Parkinson's Disease

Country music's iconic group Alabama faced an unexpected setback when band member Jeff Cook announced in 2017 that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Because of the progressive illness, Cook is no longer able to perform for every show, a fact that is especially heartbreaking for lead singer, Randy Owen.

"Particularly right now, what Jeff's going though with Parkinson's, I feel very cheated," Owen shared with PopCulture.com and other media. "I'm sure he does as well. But, all those licks and stuff we created, me and him and Teddy did together, the harmonies that we did. We're doing shows, but I feel cheated about that. On the other hand, I'm very grateful that people still want to hear the music."

Cook went public with his diagnosis in 2017, after quietly struggling for a few years.

“This disease robs you of your coordination, your balance, and causes tremors," Cook said at the time. "For me, this has made it extremely frustrating to try and play guitar, fiddle or sing. I’ve tried not to burden anyone with the details of my condition because I do not want the music to stop or the party to end, and that won’t change no matter what. Let me say, I’m not calling it quits but sometimes our bodies dictate what we have to do, and mine is telling me it’s time to take a break and heal.”

Although Alabama is continuing to perform without Cook, there will always be a space on stage for him.

“We could hire 10 people, but we can’t replace Jeff Cook in the group Alabama,” band member Teddy Gentry said. “Like Jeff said, when this is all you’ve ever known and you love the music, you want to see it go on as long as possible. Alabama has surpassed what any of us ever dreamed of, but I still love to play more or as much as I did (yesterday), and I know Jeff does, too.”

PopCulture.com caught up with Owen in Memphis, at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, where Owen was honored for 30 years of Country Cares for St. Jude Kids, helping raise more than $800 million for St. Jude. Although the 69-year-old knows he won't be around forever, he hopes someone in the country music community will continue the fundraising efforts Owen began.

"It's a time in life where you don't really think about a whole lot except just try to enjoy the moment," Owen said. "I don't know how long I'll be here on this earth. But I certainly know this much: while I've been here I've tried to make a difference."

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Alabama is spending much of the year on the road, celebrating their 50th anniversary as a band. Find dates by visiting their website.

Photo Credit: Getty images/Rick Diamond