Del Amitri singer Justin Currie reveals he has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease

Del Amitri musician reveals impact on his career in BBC interview
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Del Amitri frontman Justin Currie has discussed the impact of Parkinson's disease in a Radio 4 programme to be broadcast next month.

The 59-year-old Glaswegian recently appeared on stage in back-to-back celebrations of Scottish music at the Barrowland Ballroom as part of the city’s Celtic Connections festival.

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News of his diagnosis more than two years ago has emerged ahead of a major European tour for Del Amitri which will include shows at the OVO Hydro in Glasgow and at the Hebridean Celtic Festival in Stornoway.

Sir Billy Connolly was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2013 and continued with live performances for several years before officially retiring from stand-up comedy in 2018.

Currie, who has not previously discussed having Parkinson’s, spoke at length about living with Parkinson’s for a Radio 4 show “Tremolo,” which will be aired on 10 March.

In the programme, Currie recounts how his health concerns initially arose during his band's tour when he struggled to play the acoustic guitar, particularly while performing their well-known track, "Nothing Ever Happens". He described how he noticed his grip on the plectrum weakening, affecting his ability to play smoothly, despite being familiar with the song after countless repetitions.

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The frustration of not being able to perform a task he was once proficient at led him to question his sanity, akin, he says, to suddenly being unable to ride a bicycle. Throughout the tour, he found himself preoccupied with the placement of the plectrum between his fingers, causing other aspects of his performance, like hitting notes, to suffer as a result.

Currie also recalls a visit to a neurologist at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, during which he was instructed to relax his arms. The neurologist identified a trembling hand as a potential indicator of Parkinson's, a moment that marked the beginning of what the singer describes as “a year of dread and hope”.

He said: “Twelve months later, I sail out of the same clinic secure in the knowledge that I’m ill and emboldened by the pleasant surprise that they have pills for this sort of thing. I decide that I’m going to keep working, keep touring and keep playing, despite the uneasy feeling that another man is growing inside me, slowly seizing the means of control.

"It’s definitely a fight to figure out who is in control. You do think ‘who is in charge here?’ When you start losing control of something, even in a mild way, you feel and fear the encroachment of that thing inside you that is taking you over. That’s what it feels like – a shadow inside you that is slowly but surely taking you over."

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Currie, who formed Del Amitri in Glasgow in 1980, admitted his singing had already been affected by Parkinson’s.

He added: “Sometimes I have to second guess how to phrase the rhythm of a line, which would normally come naturally.“The other thing that has been hard has been getting up to notes as well, because you just lose a bit of control over your muscles.

“Things I used to use my diaphragm to hit I now have to sort of do in my throat. I am having to sort of re-learn how to sing things.

“There are just lots of funny wee things, partly to do with your confidence going, but also just to do with the fact that the messages are not flying around your body as quickly and efficiently as they used to do.”

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