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© Henry Diltz
You recently disclosed that you have Parkinson’s Disease. How are you doing? Are you feeling OK?
“I’m doing fine. If I can wake up and walk and talk, I think that’s pretty good. I’ve given up on the idea that I’ll be able to sing again. I knew that something was wrong for years, and I didn’t know what it was, and I’ve been dealing with it for years. It’s not like the feeling is new; it’s just that the information that’s causing the feeling is new.”
When you say that you can’t sing anymore, do you mean to the ability you once had, or do you mean not at all?
“It means I can’t even sing Happy Birthday. If you ever look up anything about how vocal cord projection works, there’s an exquisite confluence of muscle repetitive movement and coordination that takes place, and it all happens unconsciously. To produce a note, you need that muscle agreement, and then, of course, you bring in your own colors and textures, and you try to phrase and make some sort of rhythm impulse. It’s really impossible for me to even produce a tone. I can’t even call my cat in the backyard.”
I’m sure you don’t want sympathy and people feeling sorry for you, but still, to hear all of this is heartbreaking.
“Well, I am 67 years old, and at that age, something’s gonna get you. We’re all going to die. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow, and then it wouldn’t be this. But like I said, I wake up, and if I can walk and talk, that’s pretty good. [Laughs] There will be a time when I won’t be able to, if I live that long.”
Congrats on the nomination to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. What are your feelings on the Rock Hall?
“It’s not an issue for me. I never felt defined by rock ‘n’ roll. Other people made it an issue – I never did. You don’t sing for prizes; you sing to process. Art is there to help us identify our feelings, to help us through our workday, to help us with a lot of things. I mean, nobody likes to work in a vacuum. It’s nice to have your work acknowledged, even if it’s in the room where you are. But it’s not necessary for the work.”