Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: Jethro Tull

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 [1], 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.

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2014/06/03/why-arent-they-in-the-rock-roll-hall-of-fame-toto/

About nathanalbright

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26 Responses to Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: Jethro Tull

  1. Joseph Martin Nelson-Faler says:

    I’m so fuckin tired of ion Anderson and the Tull not being nominated for hall of fame again… what the fuck?

    • Sometimes it seems like the hall hates progressive rock.

      • Dwight Ballard says:

        The Moody Blues just got in, Tull is at least as good and the level of musicianship has consistently been excellent. I am not fused either way, the Hall of Fame is full of mediocre musicians, so musical complexity is not a strong value. IA is the God of progressive rock and I the R and R HOF would be a step down,

      • I don’t think many of these obvious snubs need to be inducted for their own sake. I’m sure that Mr. Anderson doesn’t need to be inducted in Cleveland to secure his own legacy. He has great music and loyal fans and no need of any puffery from the RRHOF. That said, I write this series because the obvious snubs make it clear that the RRHOF as an institution has some credibility issues and blind spots, even if saying it is rather like carrying coals to Newcastle I suppose.

  2. Mwell says:

    I will not support rr hof until Tull is in. Come on, so many great songs and albums. Is there any song that rocks harder than “We Used To Know” – ripped off by The Eagles btw for their copied Hotel California. How about thick as a brick? A masterpiece that rivals tommy and much better than bohemian rhapsody. Full albums of aqualung stand up and benefit. Just great songs. And they could play live! Ian Anderson a genius on the flute. Have you seen the rock n roll circus video – a song for jeffrey ? That is rock n roll. Put them in. I’ll go and the HOF will be legitimate. As it is now with Jethro Tull it is a facade and fake.

  3. GERARD says:

    They clearly stood out during the most creative era in R&R history. Ian Anderson was the quintessential Frontman. Shit! No way Either RUSH or The Cars deserved entrance before Tull.

  4. Pops says:

    As a 60 plus rocker, fuck the RRHOF. You dumb fucks inducted ABBA? Somehow when I was listening to Foghat and Alvin Lee, I never dreamed that someday, a legend like Jethro Tull would take backseat to some of the non rockers, u have inducted, fuck u.

    • Jethro Tull’s non-induction is really puzzling, but for some reason the RRHOF doesn’t view progressive rock fondly. I don’t understand why, given its high-concept appeal and technical brilliance, but it has been so.

  5. Roy David Chason says:

    I agree. Put them them in, Now!!!

    • Are you aware of any sort of social media push to induct Jethro Tull, either a Twitter supporter or a Facebook group or anything like that?

      • Tim. Wilkins says:

        Several years ago i wrote Robert Hilburn, then Rock music critic of the LA Times and RRHOF nominee committee member, as to why Jethro Tull was not in the RRHOF. He denied having an ax to grind with Ian Anderson despite being called out on stage by Mr. Anderson for his less than positive review of the Passion Play album. Mr. Hilburn went on to compare Jethro Tull equivalent to the rock group Vanilla Fudge. I rest my case. Sometimes grudges can last a lifetime.

      • Yes, I happen to believe that personal grudges and axes to grind are at the base of a lot of the more puzzling and obvious grudges. Quite a few people found the Passion Play album to be a bit self-indulgent, but that is no reason to deny Jethro Tull the credit they deserve for their concept albums and overall excellence.

  6. John Michael says:

    Thick as a BRICK

  7. Alfredo F Bird says:

    I can have no respect for an rock and roll organization that fails the recognize the relentless creativity and absolute mastery of the art of music that Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull have.

    There is simply no way to understand how lesser bands have been inducted and Jethro Tull has been left out.

    The R&R HoF is only displaying its own limitations in failing to recognize Jethro Tull’s immense contribution to Rock and Roll. Shameful.

    • I think that virtuosity in music may be a negative thing for many of the people involved in the RRHOF. It certainly seems as if artistic ambition and sheer technical competence are not valued very highly.

  8. James Deal says:

    I’m visiting HOF today. 7/20/19. Tull has to be let in!! Genius level stuff!

    • I’m not surprised why Ian Anderson would wish to distance himself from such matters, but fans with social media can do a job that a worthy musician might be unwilling to do in terms of lobbying.

  9. Robert Keys says:

    My theory on Tull not in the RRHOF, has to do with Ian’s “war” with the music critics in the 1970s, especially after the treatment of A Passion Play. I have met Ian and he can be difficult to get along with, and I’m sure he takes much pride in his music. My guess is he had some choice words for the critics at Rolling Stone RAGazine, the people that are much involved in the HOF, and they are determined to keep Tull and Ian out. Many of Tull’s contemps are in. Prog rockers too.
    Very petty.

    • I must admit that Passion Play wouldn’t be my favorite of Jethro Tull’s projects as well. That said, I think that you have to reward good music even when the people who make that music are difficult to belong to. Petty drama should not prevent him from receiving the recognition he deserves, regardless of how he feels about the RRHOF or even whether he would perform at his induction ceremony.

  10. Robert Keys says:

    I agree, but this thing is not a true hall of fame, it is a club for the favourites of RS ragazine; a clique of bum kissers, and Ian wouldn’t cowtow to them.

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