John Driskell Hopkins, founding member of the Zac Brown Band, announced he was diagnosed with ALS while standing next to fellow country music group bandmates during a short video shared on the band’s YouTube account.
The 51-year-old musician, who has worked as a multi-instrumentalist with a focus on bass guitar as well as a powerful vocalist and lyricist since the band’s formation in 2002, admitted he had difficult news for the band’s huge fan base.
“I have difficult news to share and my brothers and sister have gathered to support me,” he said in the minute-long clip, which was also posted to the band’s page Twitter account.
“Over the last few years I’ve noticed some balance issues and stiffness in my hands. After careful analysis by some of the top neurologists in the country, I was diagnosed with ALS.
“Because my symptoms have been slow to progress from the start, we believe they will continue to progress slowly in the future. God willing, I plan on rocking with these amazing people for many years to come.”
Lead singer Zac Brown added, “The technology and research surrounding ALS treatments has advanced, but we still don’t have a cure. Thank you for your prayers and for helping me heal from ALS.”
The video ended with the band promoting the #HopOnACure program, a non-profit organization founded by Hopkins to not only find a cure but also provide treatment plans and recovery efforts for survivors.
A soundtrack of Hopkins’ Good Morning, Believers!, featuring Emily Saliers from the album Lonesome High, played in the background.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is named for the former New York Yankees star who was forced to retire in 1939 due to the debilitating disease and after 17 seasons with the team.
Gehrig retired at the age of 36 and died two years later.
ALS targets the nervous system, weakening muscles and limiting physical function.
The Mayo Clinic describes ALS as a “progressive nervous system disorder affecting nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, leading to loss of muscle control.”
The cause is unknown and symptoms can vary, but muscle weakness that worsens over time is common in many cases. There is no cure for the disease.
The award-winning band have released seven studio albums, two live albums and one greatest hits album with massive commercial success from their hit “Chicken Fried.” Their debut album, The Foundation, was certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, and their follow-up catalogs – You Get What You Give and Uncaged – both went platinum.