Photo: Glenn Tiption by EmesiS_ (Flickr).
Glenn Tipton, who is 70 years old and the infamous lead guitarist of Judas Priest, was diagnosed earlier this year with Parkinson’s disease. This diagnosis has prompted him to step down from the band's oncoming tour, because of how limited he would be in his performance.
Glenn Tipton, born October 25th, 1947 is a world-famous guitarist (and occasional keyboard player), mostly known as the lead guitarist of the English heavy metal band, Judas Priest. Hailing originally from the city of Blackheath, near Birmingham, in the UK, Tipton is also renowned for his great influence in the heavy metal industry. However, Glenn wasn’t always the eminence behind the guitar that he is now. In the early 70’s, he was bouncing across several heavy metal bands, without finding a true home.
In one of these bands, at the time called the ‘Flying Hat Band’, Glenn recorded an album with the record label Vertigo, which ultimately was not released due to the album’s similarity to other albums by Black Sabbath. In 1974, Glenn decided to temporarily join (until he found something better, or so he thought) the band that would one day be known as Judas Priest. After recording their first album ‘Rocka Rolla’ in that same year, Tipton never left the band, and neither did his close friend, Ian Hill.
In Judas Priest, Tipton is renowned for his famous guitar solos, as well as for the band’s double solos, and the amazing solo showdowns between him and the band’s second guitarist, K.K. Downing. Judas Priest is also characterized by their complex guitar techniques such as sweep-picking, which were adapted into their repertoire in their 1990 album ‘Painkiller’, and used from that moment on by both Tipton and Downing. Their most noteworthy solos, according to fans, are the ones in ‘Beyond the Realms of Death’ of their 1978, album ‘Stained Class’, ‘You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’ from their 1982 album, ‘ Screaming for Vengeance’, and the one in ‘Painkiller’, from the eponymous 1990 album.
Other noteworthy solos include ‘Heavy Metal’ from the album Ram it Down, as well as the solo battles between Downing and Tipton in the song ‘Ram it Down’, from the eponymous album, as well as in the song ‘Metal Meltdown’, from the album Painkiller. These are only a few of the perfect solos executed by the band during their long and prestigious career.
However, this long and prestigious career is what made Tipton’s diagnosis so that much more shocking, because Parkinson’s disease will severely limit the guitarist’s performance, and will even cause his retirement from the band’s upcoming tour. However, the disease was not at all unannounced, as Tipton had been diagnosed with signs of early-onset Parkinson’s 10 years ago. This, however, did not deter him from hopping on stage and shredding on his guitar.
Right now, however, Glenn is still able to perform some of the slower Judas Priest songs, as well as those that don’t have any demanding solos. But, since Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disorder, the symptoms will only worsen for Tipton from here on out, so the guitarist went on the record to state that he won’t be touring with the band anymore, and that Judas Priest producer and guitarist for the band ‘Hell’, Andy Sneap, will be filling his role in the band for the upcoming performances.
This measure, however, doesn’t mean that Tipton will be leaving the band. The guitarist also stated that, while he will not be leaving Judas Priest, his role in the band will change. While he may not be able to perform the songs that earned him his fame, he will occasionally step on stage and ‘blast some Priest’ when his condition allows. Tipton ended his speech by stating that he was looking forward to seeing all his metal maniacs once again in the not-too-distant future.
Upon finishing his statement, Tipton’s bandmates reciprocated by acknowledging his steadfast determination in light of recent events, and that they will honor his request for them to complete their upcoming ‘Firepower’ tour with Sneap filling his role. They also mentioned that Tipton is welcome anytime, if he would want to tour with the band once again in the future.
Parkinson’s currently affects 1 out of 100 people over 60 years of age. Its causes are, as of now, unknown, though it is known to be triggered by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Though symptoms begin early in the form of slight shakes and instability, they gradually worsen until the person can no longer fend for themselves. The disease is more common in those over 60 years of age, though there have been early-onset cases in which individuals as young as 18 years old have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. In Glenn’s case, he received his diagnosis of early onset Parkinson’s more than 10 years ago, a condition that evolved during the next 10 years until now, when he received his formal diagnosis.
Parkinson’s is a disease belonging to the neurodegenerative disorders category. Specifically, it is a movement disorder produced when the dopaminergic brain cells located in the substantia nigra are systematically and progressively destroyed and replaced by structures known as Lewy bodies. The destructions of the aforementioned brain cells cause in the patient a decrease in their levels of dopamine, which in turn causes symptoms such as muscle rigidity, tremors, general stiffness, and instability, among others. Though Parkinson’s has been known to have a genetic component, the mechanisms that support the effects of this disease are utterly unknown; Parkinson’s disease can affect any and every one of all races, shapes, sizes, and gender, though it has been observed with higher frequency in those over 65 years of age.