Tony Christie ‘happy’ that sharing dementia diagnosis has meant less fear

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Tony Christie has said he is “happy” that sharing his dementia diagnosis has helped people feel less “afraid and ashamed” of the condition.

The 79-year-old singer – best known for his hit (Is This The Way To) Amarillo, originally released in 1971 – announced on Tuesday that he will record a version of Thank You For Being A Friend on behalf of Music for Dementia.

The song, originally recorded by American singer-songwriter Andrew Gold in 1978, was rewritten as the soundtrack to hit comedy The Golden Girls.

Christie will record it with special guests later this year, ahead of Thank You Day in July which aims to connect the nation through communities celebrating the work of people such as unsung carers.

The singer, who also had the hits I Did What I Did For Maria and Avenues And Alleyways, revealed his dementia diagnosis in January.

Christie, who now uses a screen on stage to remind him of the lyrics to the songs he has performed for decades, said that since the announcement members of the public have started thanking him when they see him on tour or when he is at the shops.

He told the PA news agency: “It’s helping dementia people and they’re not ashamed of it anymore.

“I found that people are coming up to me now and saying ‘Well, thanks for what you did, because I’ve got it and I was frightened to mention it’.

“I said ‘Well, don’t be afraid of it’.”

Asked how he feels about that reaction, he said: “Well, it just makes me happy…

“I just feel, you know, I’ve not done anything… All I’ve done is spoken about it, but it’s made them happy and stopped them from being ashamed of it and not afraid to mention that they’ve got it, which is a big thing.

“And it’s not like you’re saying ‘Well, I’ve got a deadly disease’. It’s not… you can’t catch it. (The condition is) just something that happens to a human body. It’s taken me a long time to get it but I don’t care.”

Tony Christie Dreamboats and Petticoats album launch
Singer Tony Christie is best known for his (Is This The Way To) Amarillo (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

He added: “I’ve still got mates and (I’ve) still got a great family. I personally don’t see the difference, apart from the fact that I can’t do my crosswords that I used to do every day. I find it very difficult.

“There are more important things in life.”

Christie, real name Anthony Fitzgerald, also said that when his new single is released it will share an “uplifting” and “positive message” with the public.

“So we want to make it a good record – it will be (with a) proper orchestra, all that sort of thing,” he said. “I’ve just got a feeling it will be a very big record.”

Earlier, the singer told BBC Breakfast that he hopes there “will be a cure eventually” for dementia.

He added: “All I wanted to do was sing for a living, that’s what I felt that I was put on this Earth to do, and that’s what I did… I will carry on doing it, that is a threat.”

Christie was praised by Sarah Metcalfe, managing director at Music for Dementia, for putting his “honest” and positive view out there for the public.

“We’re so fortunate that he’s agreed to help us with the anthem for Thank You Day on July 2,” she said.

Music for Dementia, founded and funded by The Utley Foundation, advocates for the use of music in treating the condition, which is most commonly associated with memory loss.

Dementia can also affect the way people speak, think, feel and behave.

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