At first glance, Jethro Tull would not be an obvious choice for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Yet, it should be noted that they are among the bands I most consistently get messages for telling me to add them to my lengthy ongoing series about acts that are neglected for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and in looking at their career it is not too difficult to see why this is the case. A few vignettes should be enough to demonstrate the varied influence of Jethro Tull, one of the few bands to seek cred by naming themselves after obscure agriculturalists (which, I suppose, is one reason for me to like them apart from their music). For one, the band had two #1 albums and despite their decided non-pop leanings did manage to have a couple of massively influential hit songs, which will be discussed at greater length later. For another, the band has remained influential enough to be the subject of an entire episode of Yacht Rock that has a humorous theory of their origins and that places them within the context of the music of their time that deserves to be remembered and thought highly of even today, which is definitely the case.
The Influence Of Jethro Tull
What does it take to become a centerpiece of a yacht rock episode? For those of you not familiar with that entertaining if somewhat troubling web series, most of the plot focused on the supposed rivalry between Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins to fulfill the legacy of smooth music. This led them to interact with all kinds of people ranging from Nate Dogg and Warren G in terms of smooth hip hop to music that was definitely not smooth like Jimmie Buffet to the smooth sounds of Toto and Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature.” In the midst of all that an entire episode is devoted to Jethro Tull, which suggests that the people who made the series considered the music of Jethro Tull to be equal to that of such figures as Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, Toto , Christopher Cross, and others who filled the series and who are worthy of being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, even though their popularity was earlier than that of the yacht rockers discussed in the series. How is it that Jethro Tull would be considered to be worthy of laughs for music cognoscenti even if he is rather obscure to the ordinary fan of music? It is these questions I would like to spend at least a bit of time pondering.
Why Jethro Tull Belongs In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame
When we look at Jethro Tull, we find in their discography that they only had 2 top 40 hits on the pop charts, both of which barely missed being in the top 10: “Living In The Past” and “Bungle In The Jungle.” Both of these songs are fondly remembered to this day. It is worth noting, though, that the band had a large number of hit albums that are well worth remembering, including a multi-platinum album (Aqualung), two platinum compilations, and thirteen gold albums across studio albums, live albums, and compilations, one of which won the Grammy for best rock instrumental album. This was a band that had a lengthy period of consistent popularity, and any band that can continue a career across more than a dozen gold or more certified albums extending across decades deserves a great deal of respect and credibility as a rock act worth honoring. To be consistently successful over the long haul, to win awards in obscure categories, and to do so without the benefit of popular radio singles is a worthwhile achievement and I should make myself more familiar with the band’s music as well, not least because it was often high-concept music with a great deal of creativity and artistic excellence.
Why Isn’t Jethro Tull In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame?
It is possible that Jethro Tull suffers from the widespread prejudice that exists against progressive rock acts, and that their music may be judged as being a bit too pretentious. Certainly, their music exists in that area where it is popular enough not to be known by only hipsters but not popular enough to be beloved by a large and massive mainstream audience. Perhaps the band suffers for being in the middle between obscurity and popularity, but their musical excellence has endured through decades and they have a loyal following and have earned it.
Verdict: Put them in. Prog rock needs some more hall of fame spots and Jethro Tull is absolutely worthy of being one of them.