Ian Anderson
Anderson performing in 2006
Anderson performing in 2006
Background information
Birth nameIan Scott Anderson
Born (1947-08-10) 10 August 1947 (age 76)
Dunfermline, Scotland
OriginBlackpool, Lancashire, England
  • Singer
  • musician
  • songwriter
  • composer
  • Vocals
  • flute
  • guitar
Years active1962–present
Member ofJethro Tull

Ian Scott Anderson MBE (born 10 August 1947) is a British musician best known for his work as the singer, flautist, acoustic guitarist, primary songwriter, and sole continuous member of the rock band Jethro Tull. He is a multi-instrumentalist who also plays harmonica, keyboards, bass guitar, bouzouki, balalaika, saxophone and a variety of whistles.[1] His solo work began with Walk into Light in 1983; since then he has released another five albums, including the sequel to the 1972 Jethro Tull album Thick as a Brick, titled TaaB 2: Whatever Happened to Gerald Bostock? (2012).

Early life

Ian Anderson was born in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland, the youngest of three brothers, to an English mother and a Scottish father. Anderson said, "I am a Brit. I'm a Brit. I see myself as a product of that union."[2] His father, James Anderson, ran the RSA Boiler Fluid Company in East Port, Dunfermline.[3] Anderson's family moved to Edinburgh when he was three.[4] He was influenced by his father's big band and jazz records and the emergence of rock music, but was disenchanted with the "showbiz" style of early American rock and roll stars like Elvis Presley.[5]

His family moved in 1959 to Blackpool, England, where he was educated at Blackpool Grammar School.[6] In a 2011 interview, Anderson said he was asked to leave grammar school for refusing to submit to corporal punishment (permitted at that time).[7] He studied fine art at Blackpool College of Art from 1964 to 1966 while living in Lytham St Annes.[8]


Early career

While a teenager, Anderson took a job as a sales assistant at Lewis's department store in Blackpool, then as a vendor on a news stand.[citation needed]

In 1963, he formed The Blades from among school friends: Michael Stephens (guitar), John Evan (keyboards), Jeffrey Hammond (bass) and Barriemore Barlow (drums). This was a soul and blues band, with Anderson on vocals, guitar and harmonica; he had yet to take up the flute. They played their first show at the Holy Family Church Hall in North Shore.[8]

In late 1967, Anderson was still holding down a day job, namely cleaning the Ritz Cinema in Luton, including the toilets, in the mornings, "which took me half the day" he said in a later interview. He took an old, chipped urinal from the cinema storeroom and had it for a time after leaving the job. It was not, however, the urinal which "was bolted to the side of John Evan's Hammond organ on stage" and figured in early 1970s Tull performances.[9]

Anderson performing with Jethro Tull, Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario, Canada 24 March 1977

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 Nothing Is Easy: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970, 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 (1968), he had been playing the flute only a few months when the album was recorded. His guitar practice did not go to waste either, as he continued to play acoustic guitar, using it as a melodic and rhythmic instrument. As his career progressed, he added soprano saxophone, mandolin, keyboards and other instruments to his arsenal.[citation needed]

His tendency to stand on one leg while playing the flute came about by accident, as he had been inclined to stand on one leg while playing the harmonica, holding the microphone stand for balance. Anderson became known for his famous one-legged flute stance, and was once referred to as a "deranged flamingo".[10] This stance is on many album covers of Jethro Tull. During a long stint at the Marquee Club, a journalist described him, wrongly, as standing on one leg to play the flute, when in fact he was originally playing the harmonica on one leg.[11] He decided to live up to the reputation, albeit with some difficulty. His early attempts are visible in The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus (1968) film appearance of Jethro Tull. This was referenced in the facetious liner notes for Thick as a Brick in a quote about "the one-legged pop flautist, Ian Anderson".

Later career

Anderson with Jethro Tull at London's Hammersmith Odeon, March 1978

Anderson already wished to start a solo career in 1980, when Jethro Tull was going to take a break after John Glascock's death. He wrote the album A as a solo record, but had JT's Martin Barre participation, and Dave Pegg on bass. Record company pressure forced the record to be released under the Jethro Tull name. His first official solo album was Walk into Light, in 1983, in which Peter-John Vettese played an important role in the electronic direction of the music.

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 said that around this time his daughter began taking flute lessons and noticed his fingering was incorrect, prompting him to relearn his extensive catalog with the right fingering.[12] In 1995, Anderson released his second solo album, Divinities: Twelve Dances with God, an instrumental work composed of twelve flute-heavy pieces pursuing varied themes with an underlying motif. The album was recorded with Jethro Tull keyboard player Andrew Giddings and orchestral musicians. Anderson released two further song-based solo albums, The Secret Language of Birds in 2000 and Rupi's Dance in 2003. In 2003, Anderson recorded a composition called "Griminelli's Lament", in honour of his friend, the Italian flutist Andrea Griminelli [it].

In 2011, with the end of Jethro Tull touring, and the question of his friend Derek Shulman (whatever happened to Gerald Bostock?),[13] Anderson begun to produce a sequel to Thick as a Brick (1972), titled Thick as a Brick 2 or TAAB2, was released on 3 April 2012. It is billed as being performed by Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson instead of being a Jethro Tull album proper. Anderson toured performing both albums in their entirety. A trailer for TAAB2 was posted on YouTube.[14]

Anderson released a new album, Homo Erraticus, in May 2014. He described it as a progressive rock concept album blending rock, folk, and metal music.[15] Peaking at No. 14 in the UK Albums Chart it is his most successful ever solo album.

In September 2017, Anderson announced plans for a tour to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of This Was, and a new studio album in 2019. The band line-up includes Anderson, Hammond, John O'Hara, David Goodier (all musicians of Anderson's solo band since 2012),[16][17] and, since 2019, Joe Parrish,[18][19] with Barre and Florian Opahle absent from the lineup.[20]

On 2 January 2018, Ian Anderson published a New Year post on jethrotull.com, including a picture of Anderson with the caption "IA in the studio working on a new album for release March 2019. Shhhh; keep it a secret..."[21]

On 1 June 2018, Parlophone Records released a new (50-track) career collection celebrating the Jethro Tull's 50th anniversary featuring all 21 Tull albums, named 50 for 50. In the notes of the 50 for 50 booklet it stated that the new album scheduled for 2019 (and later pushed back to 2020, then 2022) would be a solo record by Ian Anderson and not a new album by Jethro Tull.[22] However, that turned out not to be true; the band released The Zealot Gene, the first Jethro Tull studio album in 19 years (and the first with all new, original material in 23 years), on 28 January 2022.[23]


Anderson at the 2004 Cropredy Festival

In 1973, Anderson appeared, along with several other artists, on the cover of Time, for an article about new directions in early 1970s music.[24]

In recognition of his lifelong 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.[25]

Anderson was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours for services to music.[26]

He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate (Doctor of Letters) from Abertay University in July 2011.[27]

At the 2013 Progressive Music Awards, Anderson was presented with the "Prog God" award.[28]

Musical collaborations and other work

Anderson produced Steeleye Span's 1974 album Now We Are Six, as well as appearing on and producing Steeleye Span member Maddy Prior's first solo album Woman in the Wings (1978), for which Jethro Tull made most instrumental contributions.

Ian Anderson plays the Orchestral Jethro Tull – in Butzbach (Germany) 6 June 2007.

Anderson appeared as a guest on the song "All Along You Knew" from The Big Prize (1985), 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. Also in 1984, Anderson, along with Martin Barre, Dave Pegg and Peter-John Vettese recorded album A Classic Case with the London Symphony Orchestra, performing a selection of music from Jethro Tull. He was also a DJ on radio station Planet Rock, presenting his own two-hour show Under the Influence. He also appeared on stage with Joe Bonamassa playing Jethro Tull song "A New Day Yesterday" at the Hammersmith Apollo in May 2010.

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).

Anderson plays flute on the 1998 Roy Harper album The Dream Society. Anderson has acknowledged Harper as having a strong influence upon him.[29]

Anderson performing 2016 at the Blacksheep Festival in Germany

Anderson performs as a special guest on two Uriah Heep live albums: Acoustically Driven (2001) and Electrically Driven (2001), on both performing the same two songs of Uriah Heep repertoire: "Circus" and "Blind Eye".

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 played flute and sang lead vocals on a version of "The Thin Ice" for the 2005 album Back Against the Wall, an all-star tribute album covering Pink Floyd's The Wall in its entirety.

In April 2011, Anderson performed a flute duet with astronaut Cady Coleman, during her mission aboard the International Space Station, in honour of the 50th anniversary of the first crewed spaceflight by Yuri Gagarin.[30]

Anderson played the flute on the track "Cannonball" by The Darkness on their 2012 album, Hot Cakes. He played the flute on the track "Cry to the World" by Renaissance on their 2013 album, Grandine il vento. He also played the flute on "The Ocean at the End", the title track from The Tea Party's 2014 album.

Anderson plays flute in Zagreb, Croatia, on 13 October 2018

Anderson contributed flute on the song "Black Cherry Pie", the third single from JEFF the Brotherhood's 2015 album, Wasted on the Dream.[31]

On 24 March 2017 the studio album Jethro Tull – The String Quartets by Anderson was released, featuring the Carducci String Quartet, conducted by John O'Hara.

The official video for Marc Almond's song 'Lord of Misrule', taken from his 2020 album Chaos and a Dancing Star was released on YouTube on 29 November 2019, featuring Ian Anderson playing flute throughout.[32]

Family and personal life

Anderson is the youngest of three brothers. The oldest of the three, Robin, became administrator of Scottish Ballet in 1973.[3]

From 1970 to 1974, Anderson was married to Jennie Franks, a photographer who is credited with some of the lyrics to the first couple of verses of the song "Aqualung".[33]

Anderson married Shona Learoyd in 1976, described by Rolling Stone magazine as a "beautiful convent-educated daughter of a wealthy wool manufacturer".[34] She had studied ballet for 10 years, though when Anderson met her 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 500-acre (2.0 km2) Pophleys Estate in Radnage, England, in Kilmarie House on their Strathaird Estate on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, as well as a short time in Montreux, Switzerland. They currently live in Wiltshire, England, and have another house in Switzerland, near Montreux. They have two children: James Duncan Anderson, also a musician; and Gael, who works in the film industry and is married to actor Andrew Lincoln, star of the US TV drama series The Walking Dead.[35]

Anderson is a survivor of deep vein thrombosis, and has done several public service announcements to raise awareness of the disease.[36]

Anderson lists his interests as protecting wild cats, especially those that have been rescued from harsh captivity; cameras, chiefly Leicas; and Indian cuisine.[37]

Anderson has described his religious beliefs as being "somewhere between deist and pantheist".[38]

During a video interview for The Big Interview with Dan Rather in May 2020, Anderson said he was suffering from the incurable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) after being diagnosed a number of years previously. He went on to state his belief that a likely cause of this condition has been the use of on-stage smoke machines in live performances throughout his long career. Anderson continued medication to treat the condition, avoided areas of high pollution to prevent exacerbation of the disease, and practised breathing exercises to keep his lungs fit, stating that COPD had otherwise not yet affected his day-to-day routine.[39]

Other business activities

Anderson has owned several salmon farms in the UK and Chile. His Strathaird concern,[40] based on his estate on the Isle of Skye, operated until the late 1990s, when parts of it were sold off.[41]

Anderson is a director of four companies: Jethro Tull Production Limited, Calliandra Productions Limited, Ian Anderson Limited, and the Ian Anderson Group of Companies Limited.[42]

Solo discography

Studio albums

Year Name Label Peak chart position
1983 Walk into Light Chrysalis/EMI Records 202 78
1995 Divinities: Twelve Dances with God Angel/EMI Records
2000 The Secret Language of Birds Fuel 2000/Varèse Sarabande/Universal Records 26
2003 Rupi's Dance RandM Records 40
2012 Thick as a Brick 2[44] Chrysalis/EMI Records 55 35 13
2014 Homo Erraticus[45] Kscope 111 14 13

Live albums

Year Name Label Peak chart position
2005 Ian Anderson Plays the Orchestral Jethro Tull ZYX Music 68 (CD)
2014 Thick as a Brick – Live in Iceland Eagle Rock 22


As guest


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