JOE LYNN TURNER: Why I Decided To Go Public With My Alopecia Battle

April 28, 2024

Joe Lynn Turner says that he is "finally living" his" truth" after dropping the hairpiece he had worn since the age of 14 after being diagnosed with alopecia at three years old.

The former RAINBOW and DEEP PURPLE singer, who turned 72 eight months ago, went public with his new look in August 2022 in a series publicity images released to promote his latest solo album, "Belly Of The Beast". In a press release for the LP, Joe said that he started wearing the wig to deal with "emotional and psychological damage from cruel bullying in school."

In a recent interview with VRP Rocks, Joe was asked why now was the right time to finally ditch the wig after all these years. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I guess it's like a fine wine — not before it's time. Everything is timing. It was an open secret. It wasn't like a big deal. I mean, wearing hair — how many people wear hair out there? Unbelievable. And I won't mention any names, now that I'm here in the truth, but it was time for me to just say, to hell with all that — to hell with it.

"I had amazing support and love, of course, from my wife and family and people around me. And they just said, 'Look, you actually look good.' They go, 'A lot of guys can't do this look,' they said. 'But you actually look more badass.' So I said, 'Okay. That's a step in the right direction — more badass.'

"People said, 'Well, was it because you did a metal album?' And I said, 'Well, no, but it coincided,'" he explained It kind of came in like an apex, like when things things come together, so to speak. It just happened that the timing was right. But it was the right thing to do at the right time because I felt comfortable.

"You have to understand — this was not a decision that I made. This was because I was born completely with heads of hair and the whole bit, but I had an autoimmune deficiency. And I won't get into that and why, 'cause it's gonna upset some people, but that's what happened. And during the days when everybody was coming up with THE BEATLES, everybody had to have the hair. So what did I do? I went out and got the wigs. Boom, boom, boom. And it worked. I mean, there were still some people didn't understand I wore a wig. So it worked pretty good. But I never tried to say no. And I had people like my brother Glenn [Hughes] defending me and stuff. One time somebody was saying, 'How about that guy with the wig?' And Glenn was ready to bust him; he was ready to hit him. I said, 'Glenn, this guy's an idiot. Just let it go.' But when you have that kind of love, support and understanding from people you admire — family, friends, compadres — come on, man. So I had to do it. I just said, 'You know, it's time. I'm 70 years old. What am I waiting for?

"I'm really used to it now. I'm really enjoying it. It's a freedom. It's a truth. In my opinion, in a world of lies, I'm finally living my truth. I think that was an important personal message for me. If I'm gonna speak the truth on 'Belly Of The Beast', I'm going to be the truth. So here we are, people. Like it or not, this is me. And I think some people still don't have the courage to do that. Okay. I understand. I'm not judging them. Not at all. But I just felt, for me, I had to be an example. And the love and support I got from the fans out there, it was overwhelming. It absolutely made me cry one night. I was just like tearing up talking to my wife, looking at all these great comments and just saying… She said, 'See, they love you even more.' And I went, 'You're so right. When you're down to earth, when you're real, they love you even more.' And a lot of people said, 'Boy, that's bravery. That's courage.' Of course, you had a few guys saying, like, 'What's the big deal?' Hey, look, pal, what's the big deal? If it happened to you, it would be a big deal. It's all relative. It's all subjective. And it was a big deal for 60-something years. It was a big deal — hiding in plain sight."

Asked if it was a relief to finally let it go and be himself, Joe said: "Oh, man. Shower, everything. So easy to get dressed. Boom. You know what I mean? [Laughs] Really cool. I mean, for me, it's like such a burden is lifted — psychologically, physically, optically.

"I had people… For example, when I get hired sometimes for these big private parties, one guy said, 'My people know you with the hair. Could you put the hair on?' 'Yeah, that'll be another 10 thousand dollars, but I'll put the hair on.' And I would do it, because it's costuming," he explained.

"Everybody out there is costumed. You know what I mean? I think that was Glenn's — yeah, that was one of his remarks. He said, 'Look, it's like Shakespeare said. The world is a stage. We're all actors. Everybody has a costume. Everybody. And that was a costume. So what's the big deal? Look at KISS. They did it right from the beginning… But I'll tell you what: for me? Freeing? Yes. Validating? Yes. Relieving? Yes. All of those words — all of the above and more."

Turner previously discussed his alopecia battle in a November 2022 interview with Metal Talk. At the time, he said: "I lost my hair at three years old, and I'm in the medical books because of that. People who get alopecia totalis, or whatever that type of alopecia is, usually get it in their thirties to forties. Men and women. So at three years old, that was remarkable. I found a doctor when I was nineteen, and he started to give me a certain type of steroid injections, and I started to grow facial hair and body hair. I also had a moustache and beard for a while, which didn't look very good. They actually put me on display at the Mayo Clinic in New York, where all these doctors came in with their clipboards, taking notes to see how he did this because it was medical history at that point. Nowadays, they actually have a drug or something that will grow hair, but the side effects are supposed to be a little dangerous, and I'm too old for that. I don't need that. I like the way I look. I'm comfortable with it now.

"As far as the people I've worked with, when I walked in to audition for RAINBOW, Ritchie Blackmore and Roger Glover were at the board at the studio," he continued. "One of the first things Ritchie said to me was, 'Do you take your hair off to wash it or do you leave it on?' And I said, 'Either way.' So he said, 'All right. Fair enough, Get in there and sing.' And, obviously, I got the job. So I guess that answers one question of how other people took it. Nobody, at least the people that I worked with, seemed bothered at all. In fact, they were very protective in a way. I'll never forget one time when Glenn Hughes and I were with HTP [HUGHES TURNER PROJECT], we were on the road, and there was one bully, you know, and he was giving me some kind of shit. I mouthed off to him and everything else, but Glenn just got in the way and said to him, 'Look, I'll kick your fucking ass if you don't leave him alone.' And I was, like, 'Wow. Hey, Glenn, you don't have to do all that, you know? I've been fighting my battles for years.' But I was really impressed, and I love him. To this day, we're great friends.

"So, my people loved it, but there were a few haters out there that were always mocking me, making fun of me," Turner revealed. "For them, it was never really about the singing, the writing or anything. It was always about the wig, the hair, you know. [Laughs] I think it says more about them than it does me. I mean, they must have some pathetic lives to make fun of someone who's not in control of this issue. You know, it's not like I chose it.

"Anyway, it made me stronger. As the press release says, I think it made me wiser. It also made me more determined, focused, and angry. But anger is a good tool if you use it right. It's a motivator. And I think it motivated me, too, to try to rise higher than the rest. So in a way, the curse was a blessing."

Turner also discussed his decision to drop the wig in an interview in September 2022 with the "Rock Of Nations With Dave Kinchen And Shane McEachern" podcast. At the time, he said: "It's absolutely liberating. First of all, I'll give a little background. It was an open secret. It wasn't like I was trying to fool people or ever denied it or anything. In fact, I never thought it was that important, but certain, shall we say haters, or whatever, these bigots, these bullies, they would always take a shot at me, which I always thought they were just pretty jealous, really, to be honest with you. And then it said more about them than it does me. That's not my kind of people. What about the music? That's what's important."

He continued: "I knew this was on my so-called bucket list before I was gonna leave this planet. And while we were making this record, I started to feel, 'Something has to happen.' And my partner, wife, co-manager — she's amazing — she just said, 'Now's the time, man.' And I said, 'You know, you're right.' Even though I was trepidatious about it — of course, she would know naturally I would be a little fearful, because you're putting your foot in an unknown territory — she said, 'You know what? Once you're yourself, people love you more.' And she was damn well right. Once you're yourself, people love you more, because you come out and say, 'This is me. I've got nothing to hide. I've got nothing to prove. Take your shots. Do what you've gotta do. And hey, by the way, here's the record. Now what?'"

Alopecia areata is a disease that happens when the immune system attacks hair follicles and causes hair loss. Hair follicles are the structures in skin that form hair. While hair can be lost from any part of the body, alopecia areata usually affects the head and face. Hair typically falls out in small, round patches about the size of a quarter, but in some cases, hair loss is more extensive. Most people with the disease are healthy and have no other symptoms.

Alopecia became a topic of discussion in the mainstream media in March 2022 when actor Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock at the Oscars ceremony. Will's wife, the 52-year-old actress Jade Pinkett Smith, experienced hair loss due to alopecia and has always openly shared her struggle. The confrontation took place after Rock made a joke, calling Pinkett Smith "G.I. Jane" in reference to her bald head, which she has previously explained is due to alopecia. The shocking incident saw Will storm on stage to hit Chris following the offending comment before returning to his seat and yelling "keep my wife's name out of your fucking mouth" shortly before he collected his best actor gong for his role in "King Richard".

A few hours after Joe first posted his new photos on social media, fellow ex-RAINBOW singer Graham Bonnet took to his Facebook page to share one of the images and he wrote in an accompanying message: "Hi all. Graham here. I'm posting this photo of my friend Joe Lynn Turner because I was moved to tears today when I saw it.

"Joe exemplifies the meaning of rockstar. His bravery is staggering. This industry is ruthless (especially in our genre),particularly when it comes to hair. I still hear the tale about Ritchie Blackmore posting a guard at my hotel door to keep me from getting a haircut. BTW, that never happened, although he was so pissed when I did visit the barber.

"But I digress...... I don't know if Joe will see this but I want him to know how proud I am of him and how moved I was at his honesty.

"You have blazed a trail today, Joe. If you are reading this, I want you to know that I never realized what a beautiful man you were until I saw this photo."

Joe was the singer of RAINBOW between 1980 and 1984 and he sang on the album "Difficult To Cure", which featured the band's most successful U.K. single, "I Surrender".

During Turner's time with RAINBOW, the band had its first USA chart success and recorded songs that helped define the melodic rock genre.

1990 saw Turner reunited with RAINBOW leader Ritchie Blackmore in a reformed DEEP PURPLE for the "Slaves And Masters" album.

Photo credit: Agata Nigrovskaya

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