Tony Christie ‘looking forward to working’ following dementia diagnosis

Tony Christie said he would love to carry on working after revealing his dementia diagnosis.

The 79-year-old singer – best known for his recording of up-tempo beat hit (Is This The Way To) Amarillo, released in 1971 – added that his wife Sue was the one who had told him to get help.

Christie, real name Anthony Fitzgerald, also had other hits including I Did What I Did For Maria and Avenues And Alleyways.

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Tony Christie and his wife Sue, who suggested the singer get help after becoming forgetful (Ian West/PA)

He told Steph’s Packed Lunch on Channel 4: “I said to my wife, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I’m starting to forget people’s names and things’. She said, ‘Let’s go and see a specialist’.

“I had all the tests and they said: ‘It’s an early start of dementia’. They started me on these tablets which slowed it right down and it’s really slowed it down.”

He added, jokingly, “I can’t remember her name now”, pointing to his wife.

Christie said he had adapted to his syndrome, saying: “I have to have a TV screen on stage with me, with the lyrics.

“I don’t very often use it, it’s there just to make me feel safe.”

Presenter Steph McGovern, 40, asked what Christie was most looking forward to ahead of turning 80.

Christie, originally from Doncaster in South Yorkshire, said: “I’m looking forward to working. I love working.

“My grandad used to say, ‘you retire, you die’ and I just said I’m not going to die.

“I’m going to carry on and carry on … I feel good. I can carry on forever, that’s how I feel.”

Dementia is most commonly associated with memory loss but can also affect the way that people speak, think, feel and behave, according to the NHS.

Responding after the programme aired, Dr Hilda Hayo, chief admiral nurse and chief executive at Dementia UK, said: “By choosing to speak publicly about his diagnosis, more awareness can be raised about this condition and hopefully it will encourage others to seek advice about the issues they may be experiencing with their memory.

“Every three minutes, someone in the UK develops dementia and with over one million people in the UK predicted to be living with the condition by 2025, it’s a huge and growing health issue.

“As such, getting tailored support in place is key to helping families living with the impact of dementia to take back control and have the confidence to plan and manage their future.”

On its release, (Is This The Way To) Amarillo reached number 18 in the UK singles chart, but was a bigger hit across Europe where it went to number one in some countries.

Tony Christie celebrates the 50th anniversary of (Is This The Way To) Amarillo
Tony Christie celebrates the 50th anniversary of (Is This The Way To) Amarillo in 2021 (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

A re-released 2005 version, with Christie singing in aid of Comic Relief as a video showed comedian Peter Kay accompanied by celebrities, re-entered the charts and hit number one in the UK.

In 2006, Christie also hit number eight with a football anthem version of the song called (Is This The Way To) The World Cup.

The BBC broadcast another version featuring Christie and Kay as well as nurses and firefighters for The Big Night In, an appeal to raise money for people affected by the pandemic in 2020.

Steph’s Packed Lunch airs weekdays at 12.30pm on Channel 4 and All 4.