Ian Anderson

Progressive approach not limited to his music

Roseville, Calif. – The term “progressive” can be defined as “moving forward … using or interested in modern ideas.” Accordingly, progressive rock bands were defined as bands that attempted to push the boundaries of conventional rock music by experimenting with different song structures and incorporating elements of art, jazz and classical music.

As the lead singer and multi-instrumentalist of the band Jethro Tull, Ian Anderson has had some experience with this concept.

Jethro Tull is considered by many to be one of the greatest progressive rock bands of all time. And Jethro Tull’s 1972 album “Thick as a Brick” is considered to be one of the best progressive rock albums ever made. Jethro Tull’s music is particularly identifiable by Anderson’s unconventional use of the flute and his performance of flute solos during a time when guitars were generally the featured instrument in popular rock music.

But Anderson’s progressive approach is not limited to his music. At several points in his personal life, Anderson has knowingly and pointedly challenged norms or expectations in order to pursue his personal or artistic vision. Most recently, he has been working with thePaw Project, a nonprofit organization attempting to prohibit the common practice of cat declawing in New York state.

And in talking with Anderson, it became clear to me that perhaps the most progressive thing we can all do is dare to be ourselves.

One of the first times Anderson’s personal convictions were at odds with societal norms was when he was a teenager and was forced to endure corporal punishment in high school. In the 1960s, when Anderson went to high school, corporal punishment – including whipping and caning – was common in British schools. When he was 17, Anderson refused to be caned, knowing that such refusal would result in expulsion.

“As a teenager, like most boys, I got beaten across the bum with a cane or a slipper or whacked on the hands or on the bum or the back with a leather strap,” Anderson told me. “But when it came to the morality of offering up corporal punishment – especially in the slightly dubious context of an older man whacking a teenage boy – it might have been a questionable way of exercising authority. It’s just something that I didn’t feel should be the case.”

Rather than allowing himself to be continually beaten, Anderson took action. “The acting headmaster of our school wished to punish me for something that I deserved to be punished for. I was prepared to accept punishment of some sort – just not to be beaten by a man of the age of my father,” he explained. “It was something that I felt just wasn’t right. And so I said, ‘Sorry, sir, I will not allow you to cane me.’ And so expulsion from school was the alternative he offered. And I walked out.”

“Enough was enough,” he said.

Michael Friedman, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist in Manhattan and a member of EHE International’s Medical Advisory Board.
(Article reprinted with permission)

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