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Ian Anderson Turns 70 – A Look at His Long Career

At 70, Ian Anderson is still actively touring, with dozens of shows announced for the rest of this year, as well as for 2018. Indeed, the Jehtro Tull frontman is certainly not too old to rock ‘n’ roll!

Anderson was born on 10th August 1947 in the Scottish town of Dunfermline, but he moved with his family to Blackpool, England in 1959. He formed his first band, soul and blues group The Blades at the age of 16 with some of his school friends, including future Jethro Tull members keyboardist John Evan, bassist Jeffrey Hammond and drummer Barriemore Barlow. He didn’t yet play the flute at his time: he sang and played the harmonica instead.

The band underwent several name changes before settling with Jethro Tull. In the beginning they called themselves Navy Blue, Ian Henderson’s Bag o’ Nails and Candy Coloured Rain, among others. Anderson started playing the guitar early on but only took up the flute in 1968, a few months before the recording of ‘This Was’, the first Jethro Tull album began. Over the course of his career, he learnt to play several other instruments, such as the keyboard, soprano saxophone and mandolin.


1969’s ‘Stand Up’ was the first commercially successful Jethro Tull album, and the band’s only number one in the UK. Their fifth record, ‘Thick as a Brick’ from 1972, made it to the top of the US charts while peaking at number five in their home country. It features a continuous piece of music and is widely considered one of the masterpieces of the progressive rock genre.

During their over 40-year career, Jethro Tull released 21 studio albums, 9 live albums and 33 singles. Their line-up frequently changed, with Anderson being the sole constant member. Their last record containing new material was ‘The Jethro Tull Christmas Album’ in 2003, but they went on to tour together until 2011.

Anderson began his solo career with 1983’s ‘Walk into Light’, while simultaneously recording and performing with Jehtro Tull. He then released five more solo albums, the latest one being ‘Homo Erraticus’ in 2014. ‘Jethro Tull – The String Quartets’, a collection of classic Jethro Tull pieces arranged for a string quartet was produced by Anderson, featuring the Carducci String Quartet, and released in March 2017.

Jethro Tull - performed by Ian Anderson

Anderson received two honours in 2006, recognizing his important contribution to popular music: the Ivor Novello Award for International Achievement and an honorary Doctorate of Literature at Heriot-Watt University. He was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2008, and in 2011 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Abertay University. He received the Prog God award, the highest accolade honouring a musician who has made an outstanding contribution to progressive rock, at the 2013 Progressive Music Awards.

These days he resides in Wiltshire, England with his wife of forty years, Shona Learoyd, with whom he was two children. 60s Today wishes Anderson many-many happy returns and plenty more productive years!

1 comment on “Ian Anderson Turns 70 – A Look at His Long Career

  1. He played the flute into my soul. I sat in the front row in 2017 and was in the mosh pit in 1983.He moved sang played in his inimitable genius in original form. He played flute into my eyes then stood on my thumb accidentally.
    It was transcendent true talent directly from the mouse. I love Jethro Tull and this music will live on for centuries.Happy Birthday Mr Anderson. A life long fan. Cocci

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