Singer-Songwriter Discusses Experience with Transient Global Amnesia

Art and music reflect the way that we feel and the experiences we go through. For singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell, his music reflects immersive topics like love, repentance, and health. In a recorded episode shared on GPB, the country music artists also explained how one song in his newest album “Triage” discussed a frightening moment: his experience with transient global amnesia.

Transient Global Amnesia

So what exactly is transient global amnesia, this condition that Crowell underwent? In short, transient global amnesia occurs when someone experiences a sudden – albeit temporary – loss of memory that is not associated with or caused by conditions such as epilepsy or strokes. When this rare medical condition occurs, patients experience a few hours of memory loss. While doctors are not exactly sure what causes transient global amnesia, doctors hypothesize that age (50+) and a history of migraines may play a role. Possible triggers include immersion into hot or cold water, strenuous physical or sexual activity, head trauma, or emotional distress. 

When someone is going through an episode of transient global amnesia, they are often aware of who they are and recognize those around them. That being said, patients may not recognize where they are or how they got there; what is currently happening around them; or events that happened at earlier dates. Additionally, patients may ask repetitive questions. Episodes often last for under 24 hours, at which time memory begins to return. 

Rodney Crowell’s Interview

During his interview, Rodney Crowell discussed “Triage,” his latest album. Crowell has been a well-known name in country music, collaborating with artists such as Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash. In his most recent album, songs include “Something Has to Change,” as well as:

  • “Don’t Leave Me Now” – a ballad which discusses his own shortcomings and potential lies. While this song starts out more downtrodden, it later emerges bright and up-tempo as Rodney confesses his faults and sins.
  • “Hymn 43” – a song which discusses spirituality and embracing spirituality beyond the confines of a single religion. Within this song, Crowell collaborates with Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal. Outside of exploring the concept of spirituality, Crowell sings about the future: how one can always change and grow for the better. 

But perhaps most interesting is “Transient Global Amnesia Blues,” a song which highlights Crowell’s own experience with transient global amnesia. He was diagnosed with this condition in October 2020 following a walk in the woods. As he returned home to begin writing and recording, he explains that he “left the planet.” Suddenly, Crowell began asking his wife the same question multiple times. He couldn’t seem to remember the answer or even remember about his walk in the woods that morning. 

Altogether, Crowell forgot at least 4 hours – and still has not reclaimed any memory from that time. However, he did begin to come back into himself by the next day. After a text from his daughter, and what he describes as a clear head following the amnesia, he was able to write the tune right away.

Listen to “Transient Global Amnesia Blues” here.

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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