Del Amitri singer Justin Currie reveals Parkinson's disease diagnosis

Musician Justin Currie – the frontman of Del Amitri – has revealed the impact on his career in a BBC interview

One of Scotland's leading pop and rock singers has revealed he has Parkinson's disease.

Del Amitri frontman Justin Currie has discussed the impact of the condition in a Radio 4 programme to be broadcast next month. The 59-year-old recently appeared on stage in his native Glasgow 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.

Del Amitri frontman Justin Currie.Del Amitri frontman Justin Currie.
Del Amitri frontman Justin Currie.

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 spoken about having Parkinson’s, has discussed at length about living with the disease for a Radio 4 show “Tremolo”, which will be aired on March 10.

The singer tells the programme that he first began to become concerned about his health when he noticed he was struggling to play the acoustic guitar while he was out on tour and to perform of his band’s best-known songs, Nothing Every Happens.

He said: “The plectrum was just squeezing out of my hand. I noticed I couldn’t play properly and I didn’t know why. The plectrum would stick in the strings. This was a song I had played thousands and thousands of times.

Justin Currie appeared at the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow last month. Picture: Kris KesiakJustin Currie appeared at the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow last month. Picture: Kris Kesiak
Justin Currie appeared at the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow last month. Picture: Kris Kesiak

“When you’re doing something you know really well, like riding a bike or something, and suddenly can’t do it anymore, you think you’re going mad. I was spending the whole time on tour thinking where the plectrum was between my fingers.

“When you start thinking about stuff like that, all the other stuff just falls apart, like hitting notes.”

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Currie recalls a visit to a neurologist at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, where he was asked to relax his arms and was told that a trembling hand was a sign that he had suspected Parkinson’s – a moment the singer recalls starting “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.”

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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