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Neil Young performs during  2017 Farm Aid on September 16, 2017 in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania.© Getty Images

Neil Young's health issues over the years: from polio and diabetes in his childhood, to playing with arthritis and a near-fatal aneurysm

The 78-year-old Canadian rocker and his band Crazy Horse recently canceled their Love Earth tour for health reasons

Ahad Sanwari
Ahad Sanwari - New York
Senior WriterNew York
June 27, 2024
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Neil Young announced on Wednesday that he and his band Crazy Horse were unfortunately forced to cancel a slew of dates for their Love Earth tour, extending to September.

The musician, 78, shared on his website that some of the members of the band had contracted a mystery illness and were not feeling their best to perform, although it's unclear whether he was affected as well.

As Neil and Crazy Horse recover and take some time off the stage, here's what you need to know about the renowned singer-songwriter's health issues over the years…

Childhood bout with polio and diabetes

Neil experienced a peaceful early childhood growing up in rural Ontario until 1951, when he contracted polio that summer during its last outbreak in Ontario, per his memoir Shakey.

The disease left him severely ill and hospitalized for quite some time, to the point that he was barely able to walk. All this was compounded by the fact that he also had type-1 diabetes, and had to manage injecting insulin and regularly checking his glucose levels.

His polio had progressed to the point that he became partially paralyzed on his left side. Later that year, after his stay in the hospital, his family stayed in Florida for the winter, hoping that the milder weather would aid in his recuperation, which it ultimately did.

USA  Photo of Neil YOUNG and BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD, Neil Young (second from left, back) © Getty Images
In his early years, he dealt with bouts of polio and type-1 diabetes

Epileptic seizures

In a 2012 interview with Terry Gross on his radio show Fresh Air, talking about dealing with epileptic seizures when he was a teenager, recalling one of his first seizures in 1967 at a radio festival called Teen Fair.

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"I was having fun, and, you know, maybe I'd forgotten to eat or something, I don't know," he remembered. "And then I felt kind of sick to my stomach, and then I started to feel all weird and echoey, and then I fell down, and I don't really remember until afterwards." 

Canadian musician Neil Young of Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young performs on stage at Wembley Stadium, London on September 14th 1974© Getty Images
As a young musician, he suffered from epileptic seizures, although those seem to have lessened over time

"And I woke up, and then I was just – kind of had to get to know my name again and realize where I was and reorient myself to where I was and what I was doing, who I was, everything that had happened to me up to that point. And, you know, that took a few minutes, and then, you know, I kind of rebooted."

He explained that he'd learned how to deal with epileptic fits while performing, just using that opportunity to leave the stage, although mentioned that he hadn't had one in quite some time.

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An aneurysm and a surgery

In his memoir, Neil explained that at the age of 54, he discovered that he had this "weird thing in [my] eye, like a piece of broken glass," and got an MRI. When he consulted with a neurologist, he was told he had a brain aneurysm.

Neil Young performs on stage in Hyde Park on July 12, 2019 in London, England.© Getty Images
He had a near-fatal brain aneurysm at the age of 54, followed by a surgery with drastic complications

He was immediately taken to a hospital in New York for surgery, and it was believed that everything went smoothly and he was out of the hospital in two days.

However, just a few days later, as Neil wrote in his memoir: "I made it half a block, and the thing burst on the street, and there was blood in my shoe and let's just say there was a complication."

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He fell unconscious and had to be revived by emergency workers after things went horribly wrong, suffering major blood loss in the process. His doctor recommended afterward that he give up marijuana to develop more of an awareness of his body and his health, which he did.

Daryl Hannah and Neil Young attend the "Paradox" Premiere 2018 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Paramount Theatre on March 15, 2018 in Austin, Texas.© Getty Images
Since 2018, the Canadian-American musician has been married to actress Daryl Hannah

Quietly performing with arthritis

On his beloved Neil Young Archives, which the musician often uses to share updates and blog posts with fans, he spoke in January about dealing with arthritis in his hands while being a guitarist.

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He mentioned it in passing, remarking that while he'd been playing with arthritis for years, he'd finally found a way to circumvent the pain by adopting a new playing style.

Neil Young performs in concert during Farm Aid at Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center on September 23, 2023 in Noblesville, Indiana.© Getty Images
"I had been playing with arthritis in my hand for years and years and finally discovered a way around the pain with no drugs that let me play as I felt."

"I had been playing with arthritis in my hand for years and years and finally discovered a way around the pain with no drugs that let me play as I felt," he wrote.

Canceling Love Earth

In his most recent update, the musician shared that after a recent concert in Detroit, a couple band members had fallen sick and were thus canceling their next seven shows. “When a couple of us got sick after Detroit's Pine Knob, we had to stop." 

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"We are still not fully recovered, so sadly our great tour will have a big unplanned break. We will try to play some of the dates we miss as time passes when we are ready to rock again! We know many of you made travel plans and we apologize for the inconvenience. Thanks for your understanding and patience."

Micah Nelson, Billy Talbot, Ralph Molina, and Neil Young of Crazy Horse perform onstage during the 2024 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival at Fair Grounds Race Course on May 04, 2024 in New Orleans, Louisiana.© Getty Images
"We are still not fully recovered, so sadly our great tour will have a big unplanned break."

It is unclear when they will return to the stage, although it seems based on the announcement that the break will be a relatively short one. The news came over a month before their next scheduled show in Colorado.

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