Happy 70th birthday today (August 10) to Ian Anderson, the co-founder and remaining frontman for Jethro Tull.
Anderson was born in Scotland and began as a guitar player, subsequently switching to flute because he felt he would never be “as good as Eric Clapton.” He formed Jethro Tull during 1967 in London and has shepherded the group through 22 studio albums and some 20 members.
Anderson has also released six solo albums and shepherded projects such as a Jethro Tull rock opera and this year’s Jethro Tull — The String Quartets album. In recent years he’s interchanged his name with the band’s, which has been confusing to fans — but, he tells us, necessary in his opinion:
“Jethro Tull is alive and well as it’s ever been…but forgive me for my conceit and arrogance and pomposity, but I would like you to know my name…For a lot of folks around the world they don’t know. They just know the name Jethro Tull and they don’t know Ian Anderson, the guy who’s been around from the beginning and who produced the records and engineered a lot of them and sung and played a lot of instruments and things. I put my own name in the mix…If I’m doing Jethro Tull repertoire then it will say Jethro Tull in big letters and Ian Anderson in small letters. I just like people to know it’s me and not a tribute band.”
Anderson has been honored as a member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) and has received honorary doctorates from Herlot-Watt University and Aberlay University. He’s also received the Ivor Novello Award for International Achievement and was named the Prog God at the 2013 Progressive Music Awards. Outside of music he’s also operates successful salmon fisheries in Scotland.
Anderson is currently working on an illustrated lyric book, and as he begins his eighth decade he tells us that he’s all too conscious of the increasing number of his peers who are passing away now:
“It is something I think is best to talk about, not kind of pretend it’s not going to happen. You know, it’s a matter of time. But it does give you a sense of preparation, I suppose, on the inevitable. It also tends to focus your mind on the things that are important to prioritize in your life.”
Gary Graff is an award-winning music journalist who not only covers music but has written books on Bob Seger, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen.