John Driskell Hopkins talks about living with ALS and finding ‘solutions’ to the disease through his nonprofit


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John Driskell Hopkins is perfectly in tune.

The 51-year-old multi-instrumentalist, who goes by the name “Hop,” performed to millions of fans around the world as a founding member of the Grammy-winning Zac Brown Band.

He is a songwriter and co-wrote the band’s first No. 1 Billboard chart hit, “Heavy Is the Head,” featuring vocals by the late Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell. The song made Zac Brown Band only the second musical act after Bon Jovi to have a No. 1 single on the mainstream rock and country charts at the same time as “Homegrown” climbed to the top of the Jekyll + Hyde album shortly. time after release. in 2015.

He’s a father, husband, brother, actor, devoted theater geek, the ultimate Tenacious D fan and he’s honed his craft as a musician for decades. He formed his first band, Brighter Shade, with Andy Birdsall in 1996.

After decades in the business of perfecting his craft, Hop knew there was something wrong with his body. Last month, he shared with his fans that he had been diagnosed with ALS.

The 51-year-old multi-instrumentalist, who goes by the name “Hop,” performed to millions of fans around the world as a founding member of the Grammy-winning Zac Brown Band.
(Pretty Loren Photography)

ZAC BROWN HAD TO LAY OFF ’90 PER CENT’ OF THE TOUR TEAM DUE TO THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

“I started noticing issues with my stability and speed on my instruments and just general mobility as early as fall 2019,” Hop told Fox News Digital in an interview ahead of World Disease Awareness Day. SLA, which will take place on June 21.

Hop had taken cholesterol-lowering drugs, prescription statins for “plaque” in his arteries, with side effects that can often include muscle weakness and pain.

His doctors agreed to go off the drug for a few months, and Hop noticed his symptoms weren’t improving.

“It was a bit difficult to pinpoint what was bothering me, but I kept telling people, ‘There’s something wrong with me.'”

—John Driskell Hopkins

But Hop would have to wait for more help as the coronavirus began to spread across the United States in early 2020. In March, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and the former president Donald Trump followed with a national emergency as states began issuing stay-at-home orders, shutting down virtually all non-essential businesses, including medical care.

“Nobody did anything for 18 months,” he recalled of the shutdown. When people asked him why he wasn’t feeling well or what was going on, it was difficult to pinpoint a specific problem.

“It was a bit difficult to pinpoint what was bothering me, but I kept telling people, ‘There’s something wrong with me.'”

He further described the onset of his symptoms: “If I got angry or became, like, emotionally happy or showed some kind of, like, any kind of emotional response, then I would walk across the room. – My knees would be nice The only thing I could compare this to is cerebral palsy where if you get emotional you don’t have as much control over your muscles.

Hop was diagnosed with ALS in December 2021.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is named after former New York Yankees great who was forced to retire in 1939 due to debilitating illness and after playing for the team 17 seasons. Gehrig retired at the age of 36 and died two years later.

ZAC BROWN BAND’S JOHN DRISKELL HOPKINS ANNOUNCES DIAGNOSIS OF ALS

John Driskell Hopkins performs onstage for Georgia On My Mind at Ryman Auditorium on May 10, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.  Hop formed his first band, Brighter Shade, with Andy Birdsall in 1996.

John Driskell Hopkins performs onstage for Georgia On My Mind at Ryman Auditorium on May 10, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. Hop formed his first band, Brighter Shade, with Andy Birdsall in 1996.
(Danielle Del Valle)

ALS is a progressive neurological disease that targets the nervous system and motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, weakening muscles and limiting physical function.

Cause is unknown and symptoms may varybut muscle weakness that gets worse over time is common in many cases.

There is currently no cure for the disease and the progression of symptoms varies from case to case.

“When you hear something like that, the world gets really small and the anxiety was pretty rough,” Hop said of his initial diagnosis.

“I’m in a different place now, but I also believe my progress is very slow, and I hope it continues to be very slow and I can perform for many years to come as we continue to find new solution.”

Hop publicly shared his diagnosis in May 2022 and has since established the nonprofit Hop On a Cure Foundation dedicated to not only funding more research into the disease, but also raising awareness and building a community to support people living with it. ALS.

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“The truth is, there are still a lot of questions about it, and it could be a number of different illnesses that lead to this symptom,” he said, describing his own stability issues. “Why do football players seem to have it? Why? Maybe it’s a brain injury. You know, why do young people have it? Maybe it’s the environment. Maybe it’s the environment. being that it’s their internal biome I’ve been known to have a beer and a pizza in my day and my doctors assured me that’s not it.

“We don’t know what it is. So that brings us to the question, ‘Well, if we don’t know what’s causing it, how do we know how to fix it?’ It’s a multi-faceted problem.”

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders, sporadic ALS, meaning no known family history or associated genetic or environmental risk factors, accounts for 90% or more of all ALS cases.

The Zac Brown Band performed at the 49th CMA Fest in Nashville earlier this month.  Band members include, from LR: Coy Bowles, John Driskell, Matt Mangano, Caroline Jones, Zac Brown, Daniel de los Reyes, Chris Fryer, Jimmy De Martini and Clay Cook.

The Zac Brown Band performed at the 49th CMA Fest in Nashville earlier this month. Band members include, from LR: Coy Bowles, John Driskell, Matt Mangano, Caroline Jones, Zac Brown, Daniel de los Reyes, Chris Fryer, Jimmy De Martini and Clay Cook.
(John Sheerer)

He formed Hop On a Cure almost “immediately” and actively worked on find the research that “will have the greatest impact in stopping and reversing the symptoms of the disease”.

“We’re serious, and we’re trying to take this thing out metaphorically and literally,” he said. “We just try to come out and try to inspire, but we also try to be the people who make the difference. There are a lot of fighters out there.”

“God willing, I plan to vibrate with these amazing people for many years to come.”

—John Driskell Hopkins

Hop was supported by a few good friends when he announced his diagnosis last month and was joined by the group including Zac Brown, Jimmy De Martini, Coy Bowles, Chris Fryar, Clay Cook, Daniel de los Reyes, Caroline Jones and bassist Matt Mangano. A soundtrack to “Good Morning, Believers!” by Hop, featuring Emily Saliers from the album “Lonesome High”, played in the background as they discussed the #HopOnACure foundation.

“Because my symptoms have been slowly progressing since the beginning, we believe they will continue to progress slowly in the future,” Hop said in the video. “God willing, I plan to vibrate with these amazing people for many years to come.”

Brown added: “Technology and research into ALS treatments is progressing, but we still don’t have a cure. Thank you so much for your prayers and for helping us to cure ALS.”

The award-winning group has released seven studio albums, two live albums and one greatest hits album to huge commercial success thanks to their hit song “Chicken Fried”. Their debut album, “The Foundation”, is certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, and its subsequent catalogs – “You Get What You Give” and “Uncaged” – both went platinum.

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