Golden Throats: Rock Star Health Care in 2012

Last June, current radio darling Adele was forced to cancel a large portion of her North American tour, disappointing scores of twenty-something year old easy-listeners in the process.

The culprit? Laryngitis -- the age-old bugaboo of vocalists and recording artists.

The diagnosis seemed relatively cut and dry for the British songstress, but after closer attention from her doctors, the pesky case of Laryngitis proved more serious. In early October, reps from Adele's camp reported her conditioned had significantly worsened, and that a vocal chord hemorrhage threatened her career if not treated immediately.

"If you're using your singing voice in an improper way, any number of things can go wrong," Ronda Alexander, an associate professor of Otorhinolaryngology ('ears, nose and throat specialist' for you laymen) with the UTHealth told Rocks Off.

According to Alexander, in most cases, singers experience throat problems in the first place because of a lack in proper training.

"Often people who have never worked with a singing teacher are pushing their larynx very hard," she said. "Abnormal strain patterns and various injuries can occur just by doing what they're doing."

As an isolated case, Adele's medical woes weren't all that shocking. As long as there have been performing arts, there have been singers going down with vocal problems for this, that and the other reasons. And because many rock stars are known to treat their bodies like amusement parks rather than temples, health related issues have never and will never be unprecedented in the recording industry.

Yet, almost simultaneously with Adele, pop-singers from across the top 40 charts canceled tours and recording sessions citing serious vocal issues for their respective sabbaticals.

First, R. Kelly made headlines in early July after he was rushed to an emergency room for serious tonsil and vocal chord pain, prompting the "Bump 'n' Grind" singer to cancel dates in Jamaica and the U.S. Only weeks later, Keith Urban and John Mayer followed suit, announcing plans of indefinite resting periods, and serious vocal chord operations of their own.  

Golden Throats: Rock Star Health Care in 2012
Photo by Phil Konstantin

In the annals of rock history, vocal struggles have not been kind to a number of artists, and threatened the longevity of even more. Most recently, KISS guitarist Paul Stanley underwent throat surgery to repair vocal issues he reported he procured through "40 years of preaching rock n' roll."

Alexander said that necessary operations that are delayed, such as Stanley's, are the worst case scenario for a singer, and that touring artists should nip ailments in the bud by resting early and often.

"A lot of these injuries arise when an artist tries to work through an injury or sing through an illness. Trying to push it hard when you're suffering can worsen the problems and really create damage that may possibly limit a singer's career," Alexander said.

To be fair, there's probably more to the recent pop-singer plague than poor training, namely drugs and poor dieting (smoking is the number one thing that causes vocal issues). In most cases, though, Alexander said that vocal injuries are preventable, even when touring heavy, by responding to pain early and treating one's body responsibly.

"It's critical for a singer to keep their voice strong. If your voice isn't working well, you don't have your characteristic sound," Alexander told Rocks Off. "That definitely affects marketing and your ability to hang around the business longer."

Vocalists, if you've got any special ways to keep your voice at the top of its game, let us know in comment section.

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