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A Few Musicians With Chronic Illnesses


Perfume Genius

Mike Hadreas aka Perfume Genius has released a new album, and although I have listened to it only once, just before going to work this morning, I definitively want to hear more of it… the music and his voice sounded beautiful and painful at the same time, even though I was rushing to the bathroom and kitchen to get ready for work. I was also surprised to read that Hadreas is suffering from Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract. So I wonder how many musicians are affected by chronic diseases – quite a lot actually – and I wonder how this affects their work and creative process. So this is what I have found in a couple of hours:

Mike Hadreas has been diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease at 14, and he has declared to Paste Magazine in 2012 that he ‘just powers through quietly most of the time’ and has discussed his disease with a few people. It’s no fun, this disease gives you persistent diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramps, fatigue, fever, loss of appetite, weight loss…. Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready suffers from the same condition and the diagnosis sent him into a severe depression that almost made him quit music. British singer Berth Orton has also the same illness, which shows how common it is!

Patrick Stickles (Titus Andronicus) has been very open about his eating disorder (he even wrote the song ‘My Eating Disorder’), which is not anorexia but Selective Eating Disorder (people who are very selective of the food they eat). I am very selective too for different reasons (I don’t want to eat anything of animal origin and anything fattening!) so I can totally relate Patrick… However, I have never had a panic attack because of some food I ate, which is what happens when Patrick has to eat some food foreign to his diet… wait, may be I take this back, I may have a panic attack in some case because I agree with Patrick and meat is murder. But I should not be joking, it’s a serious disease.

Rosie Thomas has hyperthyroidism, an upper activity of the thyroid gland, which produces many different hormones. She said she experienced anxiety, weight loss, and thought she was getting crazy until she had her thyroid checked… Hormones control our lives whatever we want it or not. Miss Elliot also suffers from a similar disorder, Graves’ disease or Basedow-Graves disease causing an enlargement of the thyroid.

Rogue Wave’s Patrick Spurgeon has end-stage renal disease, which leads to kidney failure… again, not funny at all! He had to go through dialysis, a blood cleansing twice a day, until he had his first kidney transplant in 1993 and a second one in 2007. Naturally this supposes he has to follow a strict diet, at the risk to see his kidneys (which are not properly filtering the blood) having problems again and his legs swell and form edema. As any autoimmune disease (like Crohn’s Disease) the immune system is the problem and Patrick has to take meds which decrease his immune system efficiency, leading to a susceptibility to more other diseases! Not the best condition when touring around the country.

Seal has discoid lupus, that manifests as skin disorders and hair loss, and I bet you had always wondered about his facial scars… again it’s an autoimmune disease, and apparently Michael Jackson was also suffering from this condition.

Marissa Paternoster, the front woman of the mighty Screaming Females suffers from chronic joint pain, and her band had even to cancel their tour because Marissa was suffering too much, she made some brilliant cartoons about her illness and published them on her blog.

Lil’ Wayne suffers from epilepsy, the terrible neurological condition that gives you seizures in the least expected places at any moment, occurring sometimes in a row, the same day. This is the same disorder that Joy Division’s Ian Curtis had, and it probably led (with depression) him to commit suicide in 1980.

X’s Exene Cervenka revealed in 2009 that she had multiple sclerosis, an inflammation of the gain covering the nerve cells, as she had experienced pain and loss of use of her right arm and hand,… although she has since said she was not sure,… and I am not sure what’s going on with Exene these days, but this is another problem.

There are probably tons of other examples, I just picked a few of them that I have found around the web, proving that musicians are obviously like any of us, susceptible to the same illnesses and health problems… Of course, among the dead ones, Woody Guthrie had the terrible degenerative neural disorder called Huntington’s disease, Frederic Chopin had cystic fibrosis, and Miles Davis had sickle cell anemia! The problem is that musicians have to tour to make a living, illness or no illness, plus we have to consider that many of them can’t afford a nice health insurance! Sure, they do what they love but they pay the price sometimes.

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