Pop legend Tony Christie is terrified he is developing dementia following a series of scares on tour.
The 76-year-old, who has a history of family dementia, says he now needs autocue for his song lyrics and even forgets his bandmates’ names on stage.
He also failed to remember what city he was in on the first date of his current tour of Germany, where he’s been a big star since the early 1970s.
The singer, best-known for the No.1 hit (Is This The Way To) Amarillo?, confesses: “I’ve noticed for a few years now that my memory has been getting worse, which is a serious concern especially as there’s history of dementia in my family.
“It’s got to the point where I have to have the lyrics to all the songs I perform live written on autocue, and most of them I’ve been singing for half a century.
“I also need to look at the screen to check the names of my bandmates before I introduce them – even though some have played with me for over a decade.”
The singer has pledged to undergo health checks when he returns to the UK later this month once his nine-date German tour finishes.
“I had a particularly embarrassing moment recently when I walked on stage in Leipzig and told the audience, ‘It’s great to be back in Hamburg’. I tried to laugh it off, but it’s actually no laughing matter for me.
“I’ve not yet gone to be tested as, to be honest, I’d rather not know if I have got dementia.”
Christie discusses his worries in his new autobiography The Song Interpreter.
His failing memory even affected the writing of the book, as he had to rely on Sue, his wife of 51 years, to recall things that had happened in his life because he “just couldn’t remember”.
Sean, one of their three children and Tony’s manager, says these days he declines quiz show appearance offers made to his father because his last appearance, on Pointless Celebrities, went “really badly”.
Born Anthony Fitzgerald in Conisbrough, South Yorks, Christie he reached No.21 in 1971 with Las Vegas, No.2 with I Did What I Did For Maria and No.18 with the first release of Amarillo, which sold better in other countries. When comedian Peter Kay reissued the song for Comic Relief in 2005 it was UK No.1 for seven weeks.
Tony says he dreads the outcome of his medical tests.
“If it is bad news I’m expecting jokes from people saying they always suspected as much, seeing as I clearly still don’t know the way to Amarillo 48 years after that song was first a hit. Fortunately I have a good sense of humour and I’m probably going to need it.”
Tony Christie – the Song Interpreter is now available from all good book retailers.
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