In May of this year, John Driskell Hopkins informed fans that he’d been diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS. A devastating disease that gradually decreases muscle function, the Zac Brown Band guitarist is aware that he may not be able to play guitar or sing someday. Still, he’s been hard at work doing what he can with his bad hand to help others, including his wife, Jennifer, and their three daughters, Sarah Grace, and twins Lily Faith and Margaret Hope.
“I, as a father, don’t know what they need yet,” Hopkins tells CBS News. “And I want to be there. I want to impart some wisdom that I think they could probably use later.”
That’s why Hopkins has been recording a “voice bank” of common words and phrases that will help him communicate in the future, should he lose his ability to speak. ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that causes one to lose basic skills like walking, eating and speaking, and he’s still got parenting to do.
The singer-songwriter is also writing songs to leave his family as a part of his legacy.
“I’ve got three that I’m working on that are all in different ways directly related to what I’m going through. I was writing a song that’s simply ‘I Love You Forever,'” he reveals, admitting, “I haven’t finished it — I can’t finish it.”
A big concern for Hopkins is what’s best for his wife Jennifer, who joined him for the interview. He often thinks about what his diagnosis means for her quality of life.
“I worry about what it means to her because I don’t want to ruin her adult life,” he says. “This is the most beautiful woman in the world. She could find anyone tomorrow. But I don’t want to burden this one.”
“And he’s my life — him and my girls,” Jennifer insists, ”And he’s got so much to give. Truly the starts aligned for us to be together and we’re meant to go through this together and whatever that brings, whatever that means. This is our story.”
Hopkins even launched a charity after being diagnosed: The Hop on a Cure Foundation has already raised more than $100,000 for ALS research.
“I’m not a scientist. I’m not gonna be the one with the test tubes and the research,” Hopkins confesses. “I’m someone who has a platform that can explain ‘I can’t play guitar like I used to. I might not be able to sing one day.’ And if I have an opportunity to spread the word that way, then that’s my responsibility.”
His Zac Brown Band bandmates have been behind Hopkins the entire way. The group even hosted a benefit show in September at the Ryman Auditorium that was a sellout.
Hopkins first noticed symptoms in 2019. He tells CBS that he realized could not play guitar as well as he had before. He took numerous tests before receiving his ALS diagnosis earlier this year.
50 Classic Country Artists Today’s Fans Should Know
Today’s country music stars owe a debt of gratitude to the legends who formed and cultivated the genre, starting in the early 20th century. These 50 classic country artists remain relevant today. Some developed a style that’s emulated on today’s country radio. Others set a bar for vocal talent or songwriting skill.