Alan Jackson has been diagnosed with a degenerative nerve condition called Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease, the country music icon revealed Tuesday to Jenna Bush Hager on the TODAY show. Jackson, 62, opened up about the health condition he was first diagnosed with 10 years prior for the first time publicly, revealing his CMT has been affecting his ability to walk but does not alter his life expectancy.
"I have this neuropathy and neurological disease," Jackson told Bush Hager. "It's genetic that I inherited from my daddy ... There's no cure for it, but it's been affecting me for years. And it's getting more and more obvious. And I know I'm stumbling around on stage. And now I'm having a little trouble balancing, even in front of the microphone, and so I just feel very uncomfortable."
CMT affects the peripheral nervous system, causing balancing issues through the smaller, weaker muscles in the limbs and extremities. "It's not going to kill me. It's not deadly," Jackson said. "But it's related [to] muscular dystrophy and Parkinson's disease." Jackson's wife of 41 years, Denise Jackson, has been supporting him at home throughout his health journey. "When I'm down, he lifts me up. When he's down, I try to lift him up," Denise shared. "The happy side of that is we've had a fairy-tale life."
Jackson, who was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in 2017, has no plans of letting his condition end his musical career. "I never wanted to do the big retirement tour, like people do, then take a year off and then come back," the musician said. "I think that's kinda cheesy. And I'm not saying I won't be able to tour. I'll try to do as much as I can."
Impacting country music the way he has, Jackson tries not to dwell on his legacy, saying he's always believed it was the music that was the most important thing about his career, "And I guess that's what I'd like to (leave) if I had a legacy." Denise added that to have so many songs for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren to know her husband by was important for them to understand the family patriarch and "to get a little touch of our lives together through his music."