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What's Wrong With Alan Jackson's Health? The Singer Is Battling Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease

He announced in 2021 that he'd been diagnosed with the inherited condition in 2011.

Alan Jackson, the acclaimed singer-songwriter behind hits like "Chattahoochee," is one of 152 people who have been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He is also one of 126,000 people in the United States—2.6 million people worldwide—who has been diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a non-fatal but serious neurological disorder. The country singer, 65, first revealed his condition publicly a few years ago. Read on for everything you need to know about how Jackson's health is now, the symptoms of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, and how it could impact his career going forward.

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What disease does Alan Jackson have?

Alan Jackson being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame
Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Country Music Hall Of Fame & Museum

Speaking to Today in September 2021, Jackson revealed publicly for the first time that he had been diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, or CMT, 10 years prior. Despite what the name may suggest, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease does not primarily affect a person's mouth (although certain symptoms can impact swallowing and cause teeth-grinding). It is named for the three neurologists who discovered in the 1800s: Jean-Martin Charcot, Pierre Marie, and Howard Henry Tooth.

According to the Mayo Clinic, CMT is caused by inherited genetic mutations, affects the peripheral nervous system, and primarily manifests in a progressive loss of muscle tissue and touch sensation, particularly in the extremities. The institution notes that those with the disorder may first notice symptoms in their feet and legs and later in their arms and hands as it advances. Mayo Clinic says that the severity of symptoms—which can include high foot arches, hammertoes, frequent tripping and falling, and more—can vary from person to person. If the muscles in the throat are impacted, someone with CMT could have trouble talking or swallowing.

Though CMT is not fatal and does not shorten life expectancy, there is no cure. Treatments for the disorder can include physical and occupational therapy, along with orthotics and sometimes surgery, according to Cedars-Sinai.

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How long has Alan Jackson been sick?

Alan Jackson performing in 2010
Beth Gwinn/WireImage

The country star did not indicate in his Today interview when he started to notice symptoms, but he did say that CMT had been "affecting [him] for years."

"It's genetic that I inherited from my daddy," Jackson said. In addition to his father, his grandmother also suffered from the condition, and his older sister has been diagnosed with it as well.

The Mayo Clinic states that CMT symptoms tend to manifest in childhood or early adulthood, but it's not uncommon for afflicted individuals in their 30s or even 40s to notice signs for the first time. Cedars Sinai notes that a neurologist can conduct a few different tests to determine whether someone with a family history of CMT has inherited the disorder.

How does CMT affect Jackson?

Alan Jackson in 2009

When Jackson revealed his diagnosis in 2021, he cited balance issues as his primary concern.

"[I]t's getting more and more obvious," the star told Today. "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."

However, Jackson was not ready to step away from the stage just yet.

"I never wanted to do the big retirement tour, like people do, then take a year off and then come back," he 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."

In 2022, he launched his 16-stop "Last Call Tour," which began on June 24 in Biloxi, Mississippi, and was scheduled to go for several months before wrapping up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in mid-October.

"I've always admired my heroes like George Jones, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, and Charley Pride who just played as much as they wanted to, as long as they could," Jackson said in a statement accompanying the tour announcement. "I've always thought I'd like to do that, and I'd like to as long as my health will allow. I'll try to do as much as I can, but if I'm comin' your way, come see me…"

However, the musician had to postpone the last two dates of the tour, set for Oct. 7 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Saturday, Oct. 8, in Pittsburgh, for health reasons.

"I hoped I'd be able to be there; I hate to disappoint my fans," he said on website, as reported by The Los Angeles Times. "I tried as much as I could to play this show at this time."

What does the future look like for Jackson?

Alan Jackson performing with the Zac Brown Band at the CMAs in 2023
Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

In late 2022, a hoax stating that Jackson had been hospitalized and had died went viral on the internet before being completely debunked. Still, those two tour dates have not been rescheduled, despite assurances at the time that they would take place in 2023.

The artist has made public performances recently, though. At the 2023 CMA Awards last November, Jackson performed a tribute to Jimmy Buffett along with Zac Brown Band, playing Buffett's songs "Pirates and Parrots" and "Margaritaville."

During a February 2023 appearance on his daughter Mattie Jackson's podcast, In Joy Life With Mattie Jackson, the "Gone Country" singer reiterated that he was not retiring from music, while admitting that he has taken a step back.

"I mean, I may not have toured much, but, like I said, the creative part jumps out every now and then," Jackson said, adding that he's "always scribbling down ideas and thinking about melodies."

He also promised fans that there's "some more music to come," though he hasn't made any specific announcements about upcoming albums or tours.

James Grebey
James has been an entertainment journalist for more than a decade, writing and editing for outlets like Vulture, Inverse, Polygon, TIME, The Daily Beast, SPIN Magazine, Fatherly, and more. Read more
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