The Warrior: Alan Frew’s Inspirational Battle After a Stroke

Resilient rock star Alan Frew inspires fans in the battle of his life

No one expected the Instagram posted on Aug. 22, but it was pure Alan Frew. The lead singer of Glass Tiger, the Juno-award-winning band that was hugely successful in the mid-1980s, had typed with his left hand that he’d had a stroke two days earlier. “I have suffered right-sided trauma but I am fighting the warrior’s fight already.

I am a warrior, make no mistake about that,” he declared.

RELATED: Listen to an exclusive stream of Frew’s new album!





In the days that followed, he continued to reach out to friends and fans on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook as he worked his way from wheelchair to walker to cane and, finally, to home two weeks later. He discovered one fan, aged 21, a few rooms away who had been in hospital three years with muscular dystrophy. “I grabbed my trusty walker and hauled my gimpy ass up to see him. Suddenly my stroke seems like the flu,” he wrote.

Don’t Forget Me (when I’m Gone) post #stroke Day 3 A photo posted by Alan Frew (@alan_frew) on


The clot that caused Frew’s stroke had begun its damaging path as he slept. He’d sung the last note of the final song on 80290 Rewind, a solo CD covering hits from 1980 to 1990 that he’s releasing on Nov. 6. Then he went to bed, exhilarated that the recording phase was finally over.

A month earlier, I’d sat in Frew’s elegant small studio as he worked with his executive assistant and sound engineer Sean Andrews. Harry, his lab-poodle cross, dozed on the floor across from a huge Paul McCartney World Tour poster signed for Frew. He sang Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” emotionally, hoping for magic moments, “things that come out of the blue,” to sweeten the already recorded song. His voice was richer than the 1985 Frew’s, richer than the once-young singers he’s covering. Among the songs: Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” a massive hit for Sinéad O’Connor; “Owner of a Lonely Heart” by Yes; Human League’s “Human” and of course, Glass Tiger’s “Someday.”


RELATED: Listen to an exclusive stream of Frew’s new album!


And so the #fight begins. #stroke #battle #warrior #FREW #solo #ishallreturn #80s #hits #retro

A photo posted by Alan Frew (@alan_frew) on

The CD nearly didn’t make it that far. In April, Frew suffered a detached retina that came close to delaying the recording of the instrumental tracks in Nashville. Now, as he recovers from the stroke, he anticipates releasing and promoting 80290 Rewind as well as a memoir based on his early years. Glass Tiger also turns 30 in 2016, so there will be anniversary gigs. It seems a lot, considering, but never count Frew out. He’d survived childhood by wit and grit in Coatbridge, Scotland, a failing industrial town on the edge of Glasgow. “There was a lot of hooliganism and thuggery and drunkenness and religious bitterness. I had to weave my way through that as a boy. It builds a certain character,” he says.


The boy focused on finding a new world: Canada, where his brother, 13 years his senior, lived. In his book, The Action Sandwich: A Six-Step Recipe for Success by Doing What You’re Already Doing, he describes how he insisted to friends and neighbours that the Frews were moving there, obsessively trying to sell family possessions – even a hedge; and for three years was mercilessly teased as each proclaimed moving date slipped by. But move to Newmarket, Ont., they did in 1972, when he was 16 – his father’s angry reaction to the termination of his job of more than three decades.

RELATED: Listen to an exclusive stream of Frew’s new album!

According to Glass Tiger’s bass player, Wayne Parker, the Frew home was Scottish Central. “Let’s just say it was colourful and loud,” he chuckles. Frew’s parents, he says, “were the salt of the earth, wonderful people, and it shows in Alan’s character.”









It’s a miracle that Frew survived the early pre-Glass Tiger years. It was a treadmill of rehearsals and performing around Ontario and Quebec as the band developed a sound and built audiences. For a time, he suffered stage fright that Parker concluded was caused by the over-the-counter drugs Frew used to keep his voice and respiratory system clear. “It was my task to drag him back to the stage. He’d run off in the first song. Not fun then – fun now,” he laughs. Frew tamed his fear, but he admits to butterflies before gigs even now.


Probably few patients at a Newmarket, Ont., hospital realized that the orderly wheeling them down the hall or cleaning up after them was a budding rock star. But Frew always wanted to become a doctor and as a first step on that path, had badgered the hospital daily until he had the job. “If someone was dying who had no one to sit with them, Alan was the one they would send to hold their hand,” Parker confides. “He was so loved around the hospital. To this day, we still meet people who worked with him or he cared for back then.”


 RELATED: Listen to an exclusive stream of Frew’s new album!


By 1982, Frew was a registered nurse but simultaneously pursuing medicine and music was crushing. A single father, he also needed time for his adored young son. As the band, then named Tokyo, got its big break opening for Culture Club at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens, Frew had little time for sleep. Finally, after a close call behind the wheel after a gig and an incident where he fell asleep on his feet and awoke on the wrong hospital floor, he reluctantly abandoned medicine. The band then signed with Capitol Records, changed its name to Glass Tiger and Frew was a rock star. By 1987, they had five Juno Awards, a Grammy nomination and their all-time biggest hits “Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone)” and “Someday.”

The fight continues one step at a time #healing #hands #Frew #solo #stroke #survivor #warrior #nosurrender A photo posted by Alan Frew (@alan_frew) on


He found love in 1988, when he met Marcy Mihalcheon on a blind date. They married in 2007, after 19 years together. She’s the founder of Marcy’s Gourmet Products, sold at premium food markets in Canada and internationally. “We’re both alphas,” Frew says. “You need that dynamic of independence that sometimes clashes, but I think that’s what makes the two of us stronger. (Their daughter loves musical theatre and plays several instruments. “She’ll be a one-woman band for sure,” he laughs.)


RELATED: Listen to an exclusive stream of Frew’s new album!

Many of you asking me “What can I do for you?” “What can I send you?” Thank you so much, sincerely your outpouring of love and friendship is enough. I need nothing. I am surrounded by family and dear friends. Here is what I want. Take stock of your “giving” and of your “kindness” and if you find that you THINK giving and THINK kindness a lot more than actually “doing” it, then DO something kind right now! if you wanted to send me flowers then buy some and take them into your nearest hospital or nursing home and bring a smile to a sad face. If you have an elderly lonely neighbour nearby drop in and make them a cup of tea. If you know someone struggling with cancer hold them and ask them how they really feel. If you have an extra dollar buy a homeless person a cup of coffee. THESE actions my friend are what will save this world. The anathema we witness each and every day on our televisions will NEVER conquer true #LOVE and #KINDNESS ….EVER!!! #LIGHT will #FOREVER conquer #DARK that is a #universal #truth. As an #atheist I have embraced the messages of godly love many of you have sent to me and as #believers you have embraced me back. This is what universal truth is all about. When our time comes to leave this world we will be measured by how much we #GAVE to it NOT by what we #TOOK from it. So be kind to yourselves be kind to others it is the simplest of tasks that requires no labour other than the labour of #LOVE . I am post/#stroke Day 10 and doing well. I will #WALK out of here on my own two legs never fear. #Frew #solo #warrior #stroke #survivor #GEORGE

A photo posted by Alan Frew (@alan_frew) on

Glass Tiger’s keyboard player, Sam Reid, notes the band’s success meant a lot of time on the road. “We’ve shared our significant others’ birthdays, anniversaries, funerals – where we couldn’t come home. That tends to bond you even tighter,” he says. In The Action Sandwich, Frew writes movingly about losing people close to him while he was out on tour, yet Parker points out that he’s “never depressed or melancholy. He’s always upbeat, always moving forward. One of his tattoos is No Surrender.”


That tenacious spirit drives his recovery. Even the medical career he left behind is having a resurgence of sorts – people have responded to his advocacy and are checking blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Strokes happen silently to all ages, but he ruefully admits he had stopped medication for hypertension and non-diet-related high cholesterol because he felt fit and well and ate a healthy diet.

The dialogue continues on Twitter and Instagram. A fan, cancer-free for 15 years, thanks him for having urged her to “stay strong and fight this,” words that sustained her at her worst moments. The response to his posts inspires Frew as he plans for the launch of 80290 Rewind. “From here to the stage … that is my goal. A thousand-mile journey truly does begin with just one step. I am about to prove that to you,” the warrior writes.

Tough day today. Not in a complaining way, believe me I am happy to still be here but it’s a grind. It’s weird if someone had said 12 days ago, ” Take 12 days off” I would have laughed and said there was no chance of that. But a sudden illness changes that fact. #STROKES are strange because physically nothing has happened to your leg or hand or arm. Everything is EXACTLY as it was one minute before it struck BUT now the disconnect between #brain and #limb although fascinating is at best frightening. My arm and especially my leg feel like the weight of the world. I did fantastic today in Physio and continue to get better each day. I look around me here and see the fragility of humanity all around with others so much more wounded and insulted by #stroke than I am. I consider myself #lucky and #soldier on. #Frew #solo #survivor #warrior #nosurrender A photo posted by Alan Frew (@alan_frew) on

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People have asked me why I did this. Why I have been so open and vocal about having a #stroke ?Why not just hide away until better then come out as if nothing had happened? Well first of all I had to because if I hadn’t you guys would have done it for me. Not in a malicious way but you would have. It would have gone from a staff member to a staff member who is a fan to a fan who is a #socialmedia frequenter to a newspaper dude and boom! It’s out there. Of course by then I am at the mercy of rumour mill and goodness knows what I would be then. I would be paralyzed, in a coma, with no chance of a full recovery. But most importantly here is WHY WOULD I NOT WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT? I have an opportunity here to bring to light the effects of #stroke the #roadtorecovery after #stroke and most importantly the ways in which to help you #prevent #stroke and judging by literally the thousands of messages you have posted or sent me through messenger you guys”get it.” You #KNOW why I am doing this. I have #notoriety I have a #big #voice. I have a #microphone. #The rest to me is a “no brainer.” I am saddened by my #stroke. Sad that I could have continued my meds and perhaps prevented this. Sad that I now live with having to say, ” yeah I have had my tonsils out, had an operation on my knee….and oh, yes, I have had a #stroke !” But I am NOT embarrassed by it. #Stroke unfortunately doesn’t care what age you are, it doesn’t care how fit you are or what gender, race or religion you are. It even loves #atheists 😉 and now for me being a #stroke #survivor and a #lover and #nurturer of the #human condition we call #life it is my duty and my obligation to speak out . Not to preach. Not to #soapbox it. But simply to inform you that this could be your child or your teenager or your marathon running husband or wife or this could be #YOU and you owe it to yourself or your loved ones or especially your children to take every precaution you can to not let it happen too soon. #Frew #solo #socialmedia #stroke #survivor #warrior #80s #retro #love A photo posted by Alan Frew (@alan_frew) on


A photo posted by Alan Frew (@alan_frew) on

#emancipation A photo posted by Alan Frew (@alan_frew) on

A photo posted by Alan Frew (@alan_frew) on

I don’t know why my last post accompanying this photo has not shown up please read on FB A photo posted by Alan Frew (@alan_frew) on



During my last conversation with my #doctor before heading home I said,” So Doc, tell me please, am I a…..?” “YES!,” he cut me off mid-sentence. ” How do you know what I was going to ask?” Without hesitation he said,” You were going to ask me if you are now a higher risk to have another #stroke.” And I was indeed. Of course I was for right now it is front and centre in my mind and it’s difficult to shake it. Doc told me that just by virtue of having a #stroke you immediately are considered a higher risk to have another. Your body has shown that it knows how to have one therefore it rests it’s case and calls you #higher #risk. Now the good news. I am actually in the best shape I have been since being a young turk. My weight is good, I swim daily all year round and I eat well. Alcohol consumption is way down #sugar consumption is nominal #trans #fats minimal so why then did this happen? Well we know I have lived a stressful life as many of us do but for me it’s the fact that my high #cholesterol was and is out of the control of my #diet. That is to say I could eat tree bark all day and STILL have high cholesterol thus giving me #hypertension. Turns out my high cholesterol is #hereditary Get checked guys no matter how fit you are how lean you are get checked. It’s simple easy and will put your mind at ease. By the way if you are #overweight have no form of #exercise in your life eating crap and knowing it and blaming the world for your problems I have news for you the odds of you having a first stroke are better than the odds of me having a second one. Hey! You did give me the microphone after all 😉 #justsaying

A photo posted by Alan Frew (@alan_frew) on


Follow along and see more of Alan Frew’s journey through his instagram account, @alan_frew.