Famous People With Parkinson's Disease – Everyday Health

Parkinson's disease affects people from all walks of life, including those in the limelight. Here's how luminaries cope with this condition.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition caused by the loss of dopamine-producing neurons in the brain, which leads to various neurological and mobility-related symptoms. The Parkinson’s Foundation estimates the number of people living with Parkinson’s at one million in the United States alone, with over 10 million cases worldwide.
Nearly 90,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with PD each year, and some of those people are celebrities. Learn how some well-known people with Parkinson’s disease have managed their condition and what they’ve done to raise awareness of this little-understood neurological condition.
Michael J. Fox is among the most well-known people living with Parkinson's disease. Many remember him as the fresh-faced young star of the 1980s TV comedy hit Family Ties and the popular Back to the Future movies. Though most people with Parkinson's are diagnosed between ages 40 and 60, Fox was diagnosed at age 30 — but his diagnosis didn’t slow him down.
He shared his young-onset Parkinson's disease diagnosis with the world in 1998 and, two years later, founded the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. Fox is committed to helping the foundation build Parkinson's disease awareness and raise funds for research into prevention, treatment, and a cure. In addition to his advocacy work, he’s still a working actor; some more recent roles have included characters with Parkinson's in the TV shows The Good Wife and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
"As long as I play a guy with Parkinson's, I can do anything," he joked in a 2013 AARP interview.
Former Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne revealed the news of his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis in an emotional interview with Robin Roberts in 2020 on Good Morning America. Accompanied by his wife, Sharon, Osbourne confirmed that he’d been diagnosed with Parkinson’s following a series of health issues.
“I’m no good with secrets,” the rock star confessed. “I cannot walk around with it anymore ‘cause it’s like I’m running out of excuses.”
The diagnosis coincided with a bad fall and subsequent surgery on his neck, as Osbourne began to experience numbness and chills in one arm and both legs. “I don’t know if that’s the Parkinson’s or what,” he said. “That’s the problem … it’s a weird feeling.”
In a later interview with The Observer he commented, “You think you’re lifting your feet, but your foot doesn’t move. I feel like I’m walking around in lead boots.”
The award-winning M*A*S*H actor broke the news of his Parkinson’s diagnosis during an appearance on the CBS This Morning TV news show in July 2018 — and he’s found that exercise helps him stay positive. “You can hold back the progress [of the disease] if you do a lot of specific exercises, so I do a lot of crazy things,” he told Today in 2019. For this actor, these “crazy things” reportedly include boxing, juggling, tennis, swimming, marching, and biking.
Confirming the news of his diagnosis on Twitter, Alda remained optimistic. “I decided to let people know I have Parkinson’s to encourage others to take action,” he wrote. “My life is full. I act, I give talks, [and] I do my podcast, which I love. If you get a diagnosis, keep moving!”
Singer Neil Diamond announced in 2018 that he was retiring from touring because of a recent Parkinson’s diagnosis. The news came during his 50th anniversary tour, as Diamond announced he would have to cancel upcoming concert dates in Australia and New Zealand. In a statement on his official website, he said, “It is with great reluctance and disappointment that I announce my retirement from concert touring. I have been so honored to bring my shows to the public for the past 50 years.”
Diamond reassured fans that he would continue writing and recording music, but he would not perform in front of live audiences in the future. His hits over the years have included “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon,” “Sweet Caroline,” “Cracklin’ Rosie,” “Song Sung Blue,” and “Red, Red Wine.”
Diamond was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011 and received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2018 Grammy Awards.
Known for her rich soprano vocals as the lead singer of the 1960s band the Stone Poneys, Linda Ronstadt opened up about her Parkinson's disease diagnosis to AARP The Magazine in 2013. After two very bad tick bites in the 1980s, Ronstadt says her health never fully recovered — but she didn't visit a neurologist until she was no longer able to sing.
"I didn't know why I couldn't sing — all I knew was that it was muscular or mechanical. Then when I was diagnosed with Parkinson's, I was finally given the reason. I now understand that no one can sing with Parkinson's disease. No matter how hard you try. And in my case, I can't sing a note," she told AARP.
As it turns out, her original diagnosis of Parkinson’s may not have told the full story. Speaking to Anderson Cooper in December 2019, Ronstadt clarified that a more recent diagnosis had revealed she has a subtype of progressive supranuclear palsy (or PSP) known as PSP-parkinsonism (PSP-P). PSP is a neurodegenerative brain condition that shares many symptoms with Parkinson’s disease. And while PSP does not usually cause the tremors that are characteristic of Parkinson’s disease, PSP-P does, which may help explain the original misdiagnosis.
The documentary Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice explores the impact of Ronstadt’s musical career and her enduring legacy, even after her condition left her unable to perform. Speaking to People in 2019, she noted, “In my mind — in my imagination — I can still sing.”
Comedian Richard Lewis was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2021, a couple of years after retiring from 50 years as a stand-up comic. In an interview with Brain&Life, he said he saw a neurologist when he noticed he had to “think about walking.” But in spite of his having some of the classic motor signs of Parkinson’s — freezing, stiffness, and shuffling when walking — it took Lewis’s falling on the way out of the doctor’s office to get a thorough examination and ultimately a diagnosis.
Lewis didn’t speak publicly about Parkinson’s until 2023, when he announced it in a video posted to social media. In the video he said he intended to continue writing and acting, and he said his prognosis was good. Lewis later told Brain&Life that he intends to become an advocate for people with Parkinson’s, starting by speaking openly about his condition. He called Parkinson’s “the biggest challenge of my life.”
Brian Grant spent 12 seasons as a National Basketball Association (NBA) player, playing for the Sacramento Kings, the Portland Trail Blazers, the Miami Heat, the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Phoenix Suns. As an NBA player, he was known for his positive team commitment as well as his work with disadvantaged children. According to an interview with ESPN, he was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson's disease in January 2009, following his retirement from professional basketball. He went on to found the Brian Grant Foundation, which is dedicated to raising awareness and inspiring those living with Parkinson's disease to include exercise as medicine.
In 2021, Grant published a memoir about his days in the NBA and his experience with Parkinson’s disease.
The beloved boxer Muhammad Ali coped with shaking hands and mobility challenges long before he retired from the sport in 1981. In 1984, doctors diagnosed Ali with Parkinson's disease. Ali, the philanthropist Jimmy Walker, and Abraham Lieberman, MD, established the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center for movement disorders, a Parkinson's Foundation Center of Excellence at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. It serves as a resource center for Parkinson's and other movement disorders, including Huntington's disease and essential tremor, for both patients and their families.
Ali was long associated with the annual gala fundraising event for Barrow Neurological Institute, Celebrity Fight Night, where he was the featured guest. Awareness-building runs in the family: His daughter Rasheda Ali wrote a book for children about Parkinson's disease, I'll Hold Your Hand so You Won't Fall: A Child's Guide to Parkinson's Disease.
Muhammad Ali died in June 2016 at age 74.
The first woman to serve as U.S. attorney general, from 1993 to 2001, Janet Reno was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1995, just two years after she was nominated to the cabinet position. She was 55 at the time. "Well, my hand was shaking this summer, and I thought it would go away. I thought it was maybe you all picking on me. But it didn't go away, and so I went and had it checked out," Reno said during a press conference at the time.
Reno took medication to bring her symptoms under control, and although her Parkinson's advanced, she was able to guest star as herself in a 2013 episode of The Simpsons, presiding in a trial in which Bart Simpson was the defendant.
Reno died in November 2016 at age 78.
A British actor best known for his award-winning turn in the 1982 film The Long Good Friday and for his voiceover in 1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Bob Hoskins announced that having Parkinson's disease forced him into retirement in 2012. He was quite private about the details of his diagnosis, but in a 2012 interview with Saga Magazine, he said, "I'm trying to retire. I'm not doing very well at it, though." When he did retire, he announced that he would be focusing on living a healthier lifestyle after leaving the acting profession.
Hoskins died in April 2014 at age 71.
Frederick "Freddie" Roach is a boxing trainer and former professional boxer. Bryant Gumbel included his story in the HBO series Real Sports, detailing Roach's efforts to control his Parkinson's disease with medication and continue to work as a trainer. Roach, who was diagnosed at age 27, trains world-famous boxers at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, California, which he owns. His client list has included the likes of Amir Khan, Manny Pacquiao, Mark Wahlberg, and Georges St. Pierre.
Having Parkinson's hasn't dimmed his commitment to boxing, even as it's caused his speech to slur and his left arm to shake. "I'm in the gym every day; it's part of life. Instead of taking a vacation, I like what I do. My vacations are right here," Roach said in a 2015 CBS interview.
Michael Richard "Rich" Clifford began his career as a NASA astronaut in 1990. He's since made three space flights, accumulating 665 hours orbiting Earth. Though diagnosed with Parkinson's disease (PD) in 1994, he continued to fly. Clifford was 42 and in apparent good health when he discovered his Parkinson's disease, signaled at first by difficulty moving his right arm and hand correctly. In 2012, the American Academy of Neurology gave him the Public Leadership in Neurology Award for increasing awareness of Parkinson's disease and for encouraging people living with Parkinson's to continue to pursue their dreams.
“Everyone with PD handles it differently,” said Clifford in an interview with the Michael J. Fox Foundation. “Don’t let it get in the way of living. Life is too good. Remember, keep going — the sky’s the limit.”
Clifford died on December 28, 2021, at age 69.
Ben Petrick dreamed of a stellar baseball career as a catcher with the Colorado Rockies. He played in 240 Major League games, the majority of which came after Parkinson's disease struck him at age 22 in 2000. He retired from baseball in 2004.
He's since authored Forty Thousand to One, a book whose title in part references the 40,000 Americans diagnosed with Parkinson's disease every year. The book also recounts his experiences in Major League Baseball while coping with Parkinson's disease. Petrick's father, Vern, was also diagnosed with the condition.
One of the founding members of the band Earth, Wind & Fire, Maurice White noted the first symptoms of Parkinson's disease in the 1980s while the band's popularity was going strong. Although he was diagnosed in 1992 at age 50, he kept quiet about his disease for eight years. In a 2000 interview with Rolling Stone, he discussed his diagnosis, saying, "I traveled with the band for five years with Parkinson's. I was treating it with medication then, and I still have it under control. It's not taking anything away from me."
White died in 2016 at age 74.
Scottish stand-up comedian and actor Billy Connolly continued on with his career after his Parkinson's diagnosis in 2013 at age 70. Widely beloved for his off-the-cuff and profanity-laden comedy style, Connolly first found out he had Parkinson's during a chance meeting in a hotel lobby with a doctor who recognized his symptoms as early signs of the neurological disease. However, his diagnosis didn’t deter him, and he continued to perform onstage and on-screen until finally retiring from live performances in 2018.
Speaking in October 2018 to The Chris Evans Breakfast Show With Sky on Virgin Radio, Connolly was characteristically frank about his diagnosis and the struggle to remain optimistic.
“I had a Russian doctor in New York who said, ‘You realize this is an incurable disease?’” he recounted. “And I said ‘You have got to get a grip of yourself. Stop calling it an incurable disease; say we have yet to find the cure. Give the guy a light in the tunnel.”
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