Iron Maiden Frontman On Cancer Fight, 747 Flight

Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson credits his grandfather with getting him through his recent battle with cancer.

Late last year, doctors discovered a small cancerous tumor on his tongue. The news came as the band was putting finishing touches on their 16th studio album, Book of Souls, and began planning their world tour.

Photo: Scott Legato /
Sarnia Bayfest, Centennial Park, Sarnia, Ontario

Dickinson, 57, waited until after his radiation treatment was complete to make a statement, and found the hardest part was people dumping their fears on him.

“They’re like, ‘Oh my God, don’t die.’ And I’m like, ‘I’m not making any plans to die. Leave me alone I’m trying to get better,’“ Dickinson said.

Now the singer is cancer-free and the band is ready to embark on a six-continent world tour, with Dickinson piloting the band’s private tour plane, a 747 named “Ed Force One.” The name comes from the band’s mascot, Eddie, who has appeared on all of their album covers, and will grace the plane’s tail.

Recently, Dickinson sat down with the Associated Press to talk about his cancer and his thoughts on Iron Maiden tribute bands.

Associated Press: How did your grandfather inspire your courage?

Bruce Dickinson: I was brought up by him. I always remember a day when I got beaten up at school. I was a little guy, only about this big (holds his hand). He was a miner, so he said, ‘This kid beat you up,’ and I said ‘Yeah.” So he says, ‘All right, make a fist. Now hit my hand.’ So I did the Rocky thing with it. ‘Now go out there and sort him out.’ Kind of a blue-collar sort of thing to do so I did. Then I was escorted home by teacher. I remember he opened the door and standing there in his vest and pants, he said, ‘I’ll take care of it.’ He asked me what happened and told me the ground rules. He said, ‘You never hit a woman. You never hit somebody smaller than you, and you only hit them if they really deserve it. But you never back down and you never give up.’


You’re the frontman of the biggest metal band and also fly the band’s private plane, a 747. Take me though that?

I was working as an airline pilot. I had a regular job for 10 years, and at the same time, I was in Iron Maiden. We used to tour for like two or three months a year, and I would get unpaid leave to tour. … How crazy is that? … I went to my manager and I said, ‘Look, I’ve got this crazy idea. How’d you fancy going out in a 747 on the next tour?’ He went, ‘Oooh … that would be major.’ … I’m training for the 747 license now at a simulator in Cardiff.

Not many bands’ release double albums these days.

It’s something that most people don’t do now. It’s something we have never done. But we didn’t do it to prove a point. We did it because we ran out of space on one CD. We got to six songs and filled it up. I said, ‘Guys, either we stop now, or this is going to be two albums.’

Photo: Bruce Barton/AP
The Iron Maiden frontman during an interview in New York.

What do you think of the tribute bands?

I think it’s a great. There’s a female tribute band, ‘The Iron Maidens’ and they all dress up like us. That was an odd experience. We saw them in Mexico, sneaked in the back. Me and Steve were there and I went, ‘Go on, do you fancy yourself?’ (laughs) That’s too weird… The crucial thing for us is that we don’t become our own tribute band. There’s that subtle distinction. The new music is what makes us not our own karaoke band.