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Ian Anderson Explains Why ‘Jethro Tull’ Are a Living Legacy, Not a Band

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It’s been almost 20 years since an album of new original material was released under the Jethro Tull banner, but bandleader Ian Anderson still performs the group’s music — both live and, as on his new String Quartets LP, in the studio. So why put the band to bed?

Anderson explained his point of view in a recent interview with Eon Music, explaining that while scores of musicians have passed through the lineup over the years, he’s one of a very small number of original players who’s still musically active. And while he continues to maintain creative stewardship over the Tull legacy, he isn’t interested in trying to add new material.

“At this point in the day, I think, it’s a little disingenuous for me to talk about ‘the band’ Jethro Tull, because it means so many different things,” said Anderson. “In terms of all those people who’ve given their individual input into the band, and given their time, and their passion, and their efforts. When I’m the only guy left from the early days, I think of ‘Jethro Tull’ as the repertoire; I think of Jethro Tull as all those people, but when I’m performing today, I’m performing ‘the music of Jethro Tull.'”

It might sound like a fairly fine distinction, but Anderson sees it as part of a long tradition of music outliving the artists who made it. “If I think of Beethoven, I’m not thinking about ‘the man'; I’m thinking about the repertoire,” he continued. “We say; ‘Oh, I love Beethoven’ – you don’t mean you love Ludwig Van Beethoven; what you mean is you love his music, the repertoire that he left behind, which is what really defines people, at the end of the day.”

What does not define an artist, in Anderson’s view, are honors like the Grammys — awards whose infamous relationship with Tull he also discussed in the interview — or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, neither of which seem to hold much value in his mind. “I find these really rather tedious,” he shrugged. “It’s America, I don’t come from America, I don’t play American music, I don’t belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Grammy thing was just a one-off little moment where five thousand members of the National Academy of Recording Artists decided to award to Jethro Tull rather than Metallica.”

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