Famous Figures with Parkinson’s Disease

Michael J. Fox: Actor and Advocate

parkinson's disease

Perhaps the most prominent name synonymous with Parkinson’s is Michael J. Fox, a beloved actor known for his roles in “Back to the Future” and “Family Ties.” Diagnosed in 1991 at the age of 29, Fox has been living with the disease for over three decades. Initially, he kept his diagnosis a secret from the public, but in 1998, Fox chose to disclose his condition.

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Ever since, Fox has become a vigorous advocate for Parkinson’s disease research. In 2000, he established the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, which has since become a leading funder in Parkinson’s drug development worldwide. Fox�s honesty and tireless advocacy have had a significant impact on public awareness of the disease, making him an enduring symbol of hope for many.

Muhammad Ali: The Boxing Legend

The legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, famous for his quick feet and even quicker wit, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1984, three years after retiring from his illustrious career. Despite his diagnosis, Ali remained a public figure, his tenacity intact.

Ali raised the profile of Parkinson’s considerably by attending public events with his increasingly visible symptoms. His appearance to light the Olympic flame in Atlanta in 1996 is particularly notable: it was a moving moment that brought global attention to Parkinson’s. His wife, Lonnie Ali, established the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center in 1997 to provide comprehensive care for those living with the disease.

Linda Ronstadt: A Resilient Voice

Linda Ronstadt, the “Queen of Rock,” was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2013, a condition which she revealed has robbed her of her defining gift: her singing voice. Her diagnosis brought Parkinson’s disease into the limelight, particularly its impact on a person’s daily life and passions.

Ronstadt has since used her platform to discuss the devastating impact of the disease and the urgent need for a cure. Her memoir, “Simple Dreams,” provides a frank and poignant account of her career, the disease, and her ongoing fight against Parkinson’s.

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Billy Connolly: The Humorist�s Battle

Billy Connolly, the Scottish comedian and actor, announced his Parkinson’s diagnosis in 2013. Known for his energetic performances, Connolly faced his diagnosis with his unique brand of humor, a quality that has helped him to continue touring and performing to the delight of his fans.

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Connolly has used his public persona to raise awareness about Parkinson’s disease, discussing its impact on his life in interviews and documentaries. His 2018 documentary, “Billy Connolly: Made in Scotland,” delves into the realities of living with Parkinson’s and highlights the importance of maintaining a positive outlook.

Maurice Ravel: A Historical Perspective

Maurice Ravel, the famed French composer best known for “Bol�ro,” is believed to have had Parkinson’s disease. Although he lived long before the era of modern diagnoses, Ravel’s symptoms, as reported by friends and biographers, were consistent with the disease. Notably, his diminishing ability to perform delicate tasks, such as writing musical notation, is seen as a symptom of Parkinson’s.

parkinson's disease

Even without a confirmed diagnosis during his lifetime, Ravel’s case offers a historical perspective on the disease. His struggles provide insight into the condition before it was medically recognized and show that Parkinson’s affects people across all walks of life and throughout history.


While Parkinson’s disease presents immense challenges, these individuals illustrate that it is not a definitive end to personal achievements or contributions to society. Their resilience and advocacy work have shed light on this disease, pushing it into public awareness and sparking necessary conversations about medical research and patient support. Each in their own way, they continue to inspire and offer hope to millions around the world living with Parkinson’s.

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