Ian Anderson (musician)

Ian Scott Anderson, MBE (born 10 August 1947 in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland) is a Scottish singer, songwriter and Multi-instrumentalist, best known for his work as the head of British rock band Jethro Tull.


  • 1953 - 1958 Roseburn Primary School, Edinburgh
  • 1958 - 1964 Blackpool Grammar School
  • 1964 - 1966 Blackpool College of Art.

Early life

Ian Anderson's father ran the RSA Boiler Fluid Company in East Port, Dunfermline. He spent the first part of his childhood in Edinburgh, an influence which has dominated his artistic output ever since. He would return much later in life to live in Scotland for several years.

His family moved to Blackpool in the North West of England in 1959, where he gained a traditional grammar school education before going on to study fine art. Much of his work referring to this period suggests a somewhat turbulent upbringing.

Early career

While a teenager, Anderson took a job as a sales assistant at Lewis' department store in Blackpool, then as a vendor on a newsstand. He later said it was reading copies of Melody Maker and the New Musical Express during his lunch breaks that gave him the inspiration to play in a band.

In 1963, he formed The Blades from among school friends: Barriemore Barlow (drums), John Evan (keyboards), Jeffrey Hammond (bass) and Michael Stephens (guitar). This was a soul and blues band, with Anderson on vocals and harmonica - he had yet to take up the flute.

By 1965, the group had turned into the John Evan Smash, comprising a larger line-up. It broke up within a couple of years, by which time Anderson had moved to Luton. There he met drummer Clive Bunker and guitarist and fellow vocalist Mick Abrahams from fellow blues band McGregor's Engine. Along with Glenn Cornick, a bassist he had met through John Evan, he created the first incarnation of the band with which he was to stay for over 40 years: Jethro Tull.

At this time Anderson abandoned his ambition to play electric guitar, allegedly because he felt he would never be "as good as Eric Clapton". As he himself tells it in the introduction to the video "Live at the Isle of Wight", he traded his electric guitar in for a flute which, after some weeks of practice, he found he could play fairly well in a rock and blues style. According to the sleeve notes for the first Tull album, "This Was", he had been playing the flute only a few months when the album was recorded. His guitar practice was not wasted either, as he continued to play acoustic guitar, using it as a melodic as well as rhythmic instrument. As his career progressed, he added soprano saxophone, mandolin, keyboards and other instruments to his arsenal.

His famous tendency to stand on one leg while playing the flute came about by accident. As related in the "Isle of Wight" video, he had been inclined to stand on one leg while playing the harmonica, holding the microphone stand for balance. During the long stint at the Marquee Club, a journalist described him, wrongly, as standing on one leg to play the flute. He decided to live up to the reputation, albeit with some difficulty. His early attempts are visible in the "Rock and Roll Circus" film appearance of Jethro Tull. In later life he was surprised to learn of iconic portrayals of various flute playing divinities, particularly Krishna and Kokopelli, which show them standing on one leg.

Later career

While Anderson has recorded a small number of critically-acclaimed projects under his own name, and frequently makes guest appearances in other artists' work, he has been identified in the public eye as the frontman of Jethro Tull for 40 years.

This is undoubtedly because a signature motif of Anderson's career has been a highly distinctive stage image, which has often been counter to the prevailing rock music culture. While he has habitually drawn inspiration from British folklore - at different times deploying stylistic elements of Medieval jester, Elizabethan minstrel, English country squire and Scottish laird - at other times he has appeared as astronaut, biker, pirate and vagrant. His personae often involve a large degree of self-parody.

As a flautist, Anderson is self-taught; his style, which often includes a good deal of flutter tonguing and occasionally singing or humming (or even snorting) while playing, was influenced by Roland Kirk. In 2003 he recorded a composition called Griminelli's Lament in honour of his friend, the Italian flautist Andrea Griminelli. In the 1990s he began working with simple bamboo flutes. He uses techniques such as over-blowing and hole-shading to produce note-slurring and other expressive techniques on this otherwise simple instrument.

Anderson plays several other musical instruments, including acoustic and electric guitar, bass guitar, bouzouki, balalaika, saxophone, harmonica, and a variety of whistles.

He has recorded several songs on which he plays all the instruments as well as carrying out all the engineering and production (such as 1988's "Another Christmas Song"). His earliest foray into one-man recording was apparently on the popular Tull piece "Locomotive Breath". Unable to get his ideas across to the rest of the band verbally, he laid down percussion and guitar tracks himself before adding vocals and then bringing in the others, at a time when tracks were usually recorded with all band members in the studio. Ironically this is one of the most vital pieces on the 1971 Aqualung album and is a mainstay of Tull's stage show.

Anderson's music blends styles such as folk, jazz, blues, rock and pop. His lyrics are frequently complex, (mostly) tongue-in-cheek criticism of the absurd rules of society and/or religion ("Sossity, You're a Woman"; "Hymn 43"; "Thick as a Brick"). He often combines lyrics with other leitmotifs such as folk, mythological, fantastic ("The Minstrel in the Gallery", "Jack-in-the-Green", "Broadsword and the Beast"). In the 1990s and 2000s, Anderson's songs often capture 'snapshots' of his daily life ("Old Black Cat", "Rocks on the Road").


In recognition of his life-long contribution to popular music, Anderson received two honours in 2006: the Ivor Novello Award for International Achievement and an honorary Doctorate of Literature at Heriot-Watt University, on 11 July 2006.

He remains widely regarded as the man who introduced the flute to rock music, and the only one who uses it as his main instrument. Other flute players include Walter Parazaider of Chicago, Burton Cummings of The Guess Who, Ian McDonald of King Crimson, Ray Thomas of the Moody Blues, Thijs van Leer of Focus, Chris Wood of Traffic, Andrew Latimer of Camel and Peter Gabriel during his years with Genesis.

Anderson's character and use of the flute has been referenced in several video games. In the PC game Guild Wars, you can have your character play "air guitar" and similar instruments, including an "air flute". If your character is a male paragon, ranger, assassin, or elementalist, he plays the "flute" on one leg, in the Ian Anderson style. In GTA San Andreas it is believed a character named Jethro is a homage to Anderson, as he wears a similar beard and bandana.

He was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours.

Musical collaborations and other work

Ian Anderson plays flute on the Men Without Hats song "On Tuesday" from their album Pop Goes the World (1987), and on the Blackmore's Night song "Play, Minstrel, Play" from their debut album Shadow of the Moon (1997).

Ian Anderson appears as a guest on The Big Prize, the second album by Canadian rock band Honeymoon Suite. This followed Jethro Tull's 1984 tour on which Honeymoon Suite was one of the opening acts. He was also a DJ on Planet Rock, presenting his own two-hour show Under The Influence.

Ian Anderson plays flute on the track "Portmeirion" on Fairport Convention's 2001 album 'XXXV'. Anderson has performed with Fairport Convention at their annual Cropredy Festival on several occasions since the mid-1980s, when their bass player Dave Pegg was also a member of Jethro Tull.

Anderson produced Steeleye Span's 1974 album Now We Are Six.

Family and personal life

From 1970 to 1974, Anderson was married to Jennie Franks, a photographer who is credited with writing many of the lyrics to the song Aqualung. Anderson married Shona Learoyd in 1976, described by Rolling Stone magazine as a "beautiful convent-educated daughter of a wealthy wool manufacturer. She had studied ballet for 10 years, though Anderson met her when she was working as a press officer at Jethro Tull's then record-label Chrysalis Records. She later became involved with the band's on-stage special effects.

The couple have lived in a 16th-century redbrick farmhouse on the 74-acre Pophleys estate in Buckinghamshire, England, and in the Western Isles of Scotland. They currently live in Minety Wiltshire, England. They have two children: James Anderson, also a musician, and Gael, who works in the film industry and is married to the actor Andrew Lincoln.

Ian is a survivor of deep vein thrombosis, and has done several public service announcements to raise awareness of the disease.

Among his interests Anderson lists protecting wild cats, especially those that have been rescued from harsh captivity; cameras, chiefly Leicas; Indian cuisine - he has written a beginner's guide, thus far published only on the Internet.

Ian describes himself as being "somewhere between Deist and Pantheist" religiously, according to his foreword to the pamphlet for his 2006 St. Brides charity concerts for the homeless.

Anderson has never taken the driving test, though he lists off-road motorcycling among his interests.

During the late 1980s a popular urban legend concerned Anderson's alleged "far-right views". The allegations were groundless and appear to stem from confusion with another Ian Anderson who was a spokesman for the far-right National Front party.

Business activities

Anderson is a successful businessman away from the music industry, and he has owned several salmon farms. His Strathaird concern, based on his estate on the Isle of Skye was worth £10.7 million in the late 1990s, when parts of it began to be sold off. He currently owns a group of companies which reported a gross profit of £1.8 million in 2004, when the Sunday Herald newspaper reported:

He and his wife Shona, the sole shareholders and directors, shared a £500,000 dividend and emoluments, excluding pension contributions, of £850,954. A modest pre-tax loss of £5,806 was booked for the year but the balance sheet shows shareholders’ funds stand at £3.2m. Income included a payment of £209,517 following one of the rock group’s regular checks on its flow of royalties.

Solo discography

Year Name Type Label Peak chart position
USA UK Germany
1983 Walk into Light Studio album Chrysalis Records 78
1995 Divinities: Twelve Dances with God " EMI 1
2000 The Secret Language of Birds " Fuel 2000 26
2003 Rupi's Dance " RandM Records 40
2005 Ian Anderson Plays the Orchestral Jethro Tull Live album/DVD ZYX Music 68 (CD)


External links

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