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Bob Seger Discusses His ‘Bad Year and a Half’

Larry Busacca, Getty Images
Larry Busacca, Getty Images

Bob Seger is about halfway through his recovery period from the back surgery that forced him to postpone most of his tour this past fall, and he’s itching to get back out on the road.

In a new interview, he discussed his recuperation, saying that it’s all been part of a difficult stretch that’s also seen him lose his dear friend Glenn Frey of the Eagles. “It’s my seventh week and I’m in a three-month recovery, which ends Jan. 22,” he told Billboard, “so I’m about halfway through. The pain is down. I’d say it’s one out of 10, but it’s constant. It’s nagging, and unfortunately I can’t sing or play or lift anything more than five pounds, not over my head, until it’s gone. So it’s difficult to work out or anything. I can walk. That’s about it. It’s maddening. I’m just stuck here. But they warned me of this. They said it was going to really hurt for about three months afterwards, but the payoff is [the surgery] didn’t go anywhere near my larynx.”

Seger started his tour in late August but had to postpone the remainder of the dates after playing only 13 of the 33 dates to undergo surgery to correct a pinched vertebrae. He’s hoping the three months will be all the time he needs, but also knows that the damage could be permanent.

“We’re kinda looking at mid-March, hoping I’ll be up and okay by then,” he noted. “But I just don’t know. But we’ve got to do these 20 [shows] that are outstanding. We have 200,000 tickets out there, so we have to honor that. Those people have been great. They’ve held on to their tickets all this time, so that’s the first thing we’ve got to do, but I don’t know when, exactly. .. They say, ‘We can’t guarantee it’ll ever go away,’ but that’s what doctors have to say. I think it’s gonna be okay, but if it doesn’t, I’m done, dude.”

Seger’s health issues also kept him from promoting I Knew You When, his 18th studio album that came out last month. The record is dedicated to, and heavily influenced by, his late friend Frey. With covers of Lou Reed‘s “Busload of Faith” and Leonard Cohen‘s “Democracy,” Seger acknowledged that it’s not just Frey who influenced the record, but also many of his other musician friends who have died in recent years. “I give a nod to [Little Feat] drummer Richie Hayward ’cause he’s playing on four songs and he died in 2010,” he said. “And then Gregg [Allman] died and then [Tom] Petty died.”

But it’s the 2016 death of Frey, who sang backup on Seger’s first hit, “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man,” that hit him the hardest. “He was probably my best friend outside of my band, and we stayed in touch all those years,” Seger said. “We were a couple of lower- to middle-class kids from Michigan who became really good buddies, loved the same music, shared the same passion. … I’ve been looking at these pictures of me and Glenn, and I had a picture with Cindy and [Frey’s children] that I’ve been looking at the whole time I’ve been doing it, like ‘Don’t mess this up!’ I did a guest DJ thing on the Eagles’ new SiriusXM channel and shed a few tears listening to his songs. It’s been a bad year and a half.”

Next: Top 10 Bob Seger Songs

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