JUDAS PRIEST singer Rob Halford says that the band's Parkinson's disease-suffering guitarist Glenn Tipton is "a wonderfully strong, beautiful man" who is continuing to fight against the illness.
Tipton was diagnosed with Parkinson's more than six years ago — after being stricken by the condition at least half a decade earlier — but announced in early 2018 he was going to sit out touring activities in support of PRIEST's latest album, "Firepower". He was replaced by "Firepower" album producer Andy Sneap, who is also known for his work in NWOBHM revivalists HELL and cult thrash outfit SABBAT. Tipton occasionally joins PRIEST onstage for its encores, performing "Metal Gods", "Breaking The Law" and "Living After Midnight".
Asked for an update on Tipton's health, Halford told BBC Sounds: "He's a wonderfully strong, beautiful man. And before this horrible pandemic closed everything down, we were working over at Glenn's, writing material for the next PRIEST album, which will come out when it's ready; we still have a long ways to go. But we were there, and Glenn was making contributions. He can still play the guitar, albeit in his own particular way.
"Parkinson's is a really cruel, terrible, horrible thing to happen to anybody —to see the physical debilitation that it creates," Rob continued. "But your brain is still there — you're still functioning as a person. But in a guitar sense, it's very, very difficult to play anything anymore. But like we [say] on this great song on the last PRIEST album, 'Firepower'. 'No Surrender'. You don't give in. You fight, fight, fight, and that's what Glenn's doing right now.
"Incidentally, he has this wonderful Glenn Tipton Parkinson's Foundation. We've raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for Glenn over the years, and we're still continuing to do that. Some of the advances that they have in Parkinson's now are extraordinary, but the funds and the finance to keep searching are vital.
"But he's doing great. He's beautiful. I can't to see him again and give him a hug."
In a separate interview with SiriusXM's "Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk", PRIEST guitarist Richie Faulkner stated about Glenn: "He's doing okay. With this challenge that he's got, it's up and down. I've seen a picture of him, actually, recently — he FaceTimed with me. He's got a beard, which I don't think Glenn Tipton has ever had. He's like the new hipster 2020 Glenn Tipton. But he has good days and bad days. But he was in good spirits."
Tipton will turn 73 next month (October 25).
Bassist Ian Hill is the sole remaining original member of PRIEST, which formed in 1969. Halford joined the group in 1973 and Tipton signed on in 1974. Rob left PRIEST in the early 1990s to form his own band, then returned to PRIEST in 2003. Founding guitarist K.K. Downing parted ways with the band in 2011, and was replaced by Faulkner.
In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, JUDAS PRIEST recently postponed most of its previously announced fall 2020 U.S. tour dates to the summer/fall of 2021.