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Ian Anderson: I’m suffering from an incurable lung disease

Ian Anderson
Ian Anderson (Image credit: Stuart Wood)

Ian Anderson has revealed he’s suffering from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and was diagnosed with the lung condition a couple of years ago.

The Jethro Tull leader makes the comments on the new episode of Dan Rather’s The Big Interview, which will be broadcast tomorrow night (May 13) at 8pm ET on AXS TV.

In a video clip from the show, Anderson says: “I’m going to tell you something I’ve never told anybody in public before – I am suffering from an incurable lung disease which I was diagnosed with a couple of years back.

“I do struggle. I have what are called exacerbations – periods when I get an infection that turns into severe bronchitis and I have maybe two or three weeks when it’s really a tough job to go out there on stage and play.

“Fingers crossed, I’ve gone 18 months now without an exacerbation and I’m on medication. If I’m kept in a reasonably pollution-free environment in terms of air quality, I do OK. But my days are numbered. 

"It’s not yet at the point that it affects my day to day life – I can still run for the bus."

Asked what the prognosis is, Anderson replies: “Fight it all the way – keep using as much of your lung power as you’re lucky enough to have and push it to the limit all the time.

“The minute you settle back and say, ‘I can’t do this any more,’ it’s a slippery slope. The answer is keep pushing.”

Asked what the disease is called in medical circles, Anderson replies: “Popularly termed COPD, where you lose some of the ability of your lungs to give you enough oxygen. I spend 50 years of my life on stage among those wretched things that I call smoke machines. 

“Today, they’re politely referred to as hazers, as if they’re somehow innocent and not damaging to you lungs. I really do believe that’s a very significant part of the problem I have.”

In the interview, Anderson also touches on a variety of topics, including his work on raising awareness about climate change, the new biography The Ballad of Jethro Tull and how Eric Clapton inspired him to become a flute player.