A prime example of an artist who isn’t letting a disability end his music career, John Mann of Spirit of The West will be performing in Parksville tomorrow night.
For fans of the band which has been an integral part of the Canadian music scene for 31 years, it is an opportunity that may not happen again.
In September 2014, the lead singer of SOTW announced that he was dealing with a diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Since then, the groundbreaking front man has continued to perform, proving that, in spite of his health challenges, he is still a powerful force on stage.
When Mann made his diagnosis public he also let it be known that he would continue to write and tour because that is what he loves to do.
He explained in a news release that he will be using an iPad loaded with lyrics to prompt his memory.
For his solo shows, either Al Rodger or Tobin Frank will accompany and support him on stage.
Mann had been experiencing symptoms of the degenerative disease for some time so the diagnosis was not a surprise.
In fact he battled colorectal cancer in 2010, which he believes may have contributed to his current condition.
“I don’t want to spend any more energy trying to hide my symptoms. I don’t want to feel embarrassed. I want to accept what has happened and live,” Mann said in the statement.
While his Spirit of the West band mates have circled him with care as they have forged ahead, the fate of their drummer Vince Ditrich has come into question.
Ditrich, who calls Nanoose Bay home, is also sick.
His kidneys have failed and he is on dialysis awaiting a transplant.
“As you might imagine this has completely taken the wind out of my sails and my normally energetic lifestyle has nearly ground to a total halt,” he explained.
Ditrich said his health started failing a couple of years ago and there were moments when he thought he was a goner.
“I am on dialysis and it makes me feel better. Before I was on it I was a few inches away from death.”
Ditrich now spends three days a week in Nanaimo undergoing dialysis.
“I need to be hooked up to a machine to live. I am not great but I am functional.”
Ditrich said it is challenging to be reduced to one day at a time when you lose your strength and vitality which are major components of life.
He said there are some people who are attempting to be organ donors for him but it is a long and complex process.
“I am 52 so whatever happens next is going to be quite the adventure,” he acknowledged and added, “I don’t know how much longer John is going to want to be performing. We are wounded warriors.”
Ditrich said he still performs with the band and their fans can expect an interesting project down the road.
“The main project Spirit has on the go right now is a documentary film about us, our history, and the method in which we’re working through our current all-consuming challenges.”
He said the film is being directed by Pete McCormack, a Vancouver-based filmmaker, author, screenwriter, singer/songwriter and thinker.
So what can music fans expect from the show in Parksville?
Here is what Mann’s manager Allen Moy told The NEWS:
“John will be performing selections from his album The Waiting Room. John will be joined onstage by his producer Allan Rodger. It will be intimate. There will be a couple of SOTW favourites in the mix. It will be magic.”
The show takes place at the Quality Resort Bayside at 7 p.m. tomorrow night (Friday, May 15).
Doors open at 7 p.m. with the show starting at 8 p.m.
Christopher Arruda also known as The Lion (from The Lion The Bear The Fox) will be starting the evening off.