Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson Reveals Incurable Lung Disease

Anderson attributes his diagnosis on exposure to onstage smoke machines

May 14, 2020

Photo credit Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson has gone public with his diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

In an interview with Dan Rather on his AXS TV series The Big Interview, Anderson claimed his “days are numbered.”

“I’m going to tell you something I’ve never told anybody in public before,” Anderson said.  “Since it’s you, 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.”

“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.”

Although Anderson’s outlook may appear grim, he says he’s gone 18 months without an exacerbation. “I’m on medication and if I’m kept in a reasonably pollution-free environment in terms of air quality, I do ok,” Anderson said.

Anderson attributes his diagnosis to smoke machines that are used onstage during performances.

“I’ve spent 50 years of my life onstage amongst those wretched things that I call smoke machines,” he said. “Today they are politely referred to as ‘hazers.’ 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.”

“I take 10 breaths for every breath the bass player takes, which is a slight exaggeration, but you know what I mean,” he told Rather. “I’m aerobic on stage for two hours so I’m taking in a huge amount of whatever is in the air.”

After an outpouring of concern from fans around the world, Anderson has since clarified his statement about his health. “Thanks for your concern but no worries about my diagnosed COPD and asthma,” he shared. “I have had 14 months with no infections and no bronchitis so last year was the first since my twenties when I didn’t get sick at all. The conditions I have are early-stage and I plan to keep them that way.”

"I should be OK for a few more years if COVID doesn’t get me first.”

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