Although the flute isn’t commonly heard in rock or pop music, a number of popular rock and pop bands and songs have prominently featured the flute in their music. Widely recognized as the man who introduced the flute to rock music, Ian Anderson remains one of the most highly regarded flutists in contemporary music. So far, no band has come close to the talent behind and complexity of the flute solos featured in Jethro Tull. Whether you’re searching for some creative inspiration or simply enjoy hearing the flute in contemporary music, here is a list of five awesome contemporary bands that feature the flute.
Although the flute wasn’t written into every Genesis song, Peter Gabriel was known to feature the flute in the group’s songs from time to time. In fact, Peter Gabriel actually got his start in music as a session flute player- he even played the flute on Cat Steven’s first album on the Island records label, Mona Bone Jakon. Despite the incredible energy of his performance and the intensity of the flute, Peter Gabriel left Genesis in 1975. In a written statement he claimed he had become disillusioned with the music industry and wanted to spend extended time with his family. He went on to record his first self-titled solo album in 1976.
Essential listening: The Knife
Although the band is often thought of as an interim vehicle for singer/songwriter/keyboardist/guitarist Steve Winwood, Traffic was a successful group that followed its own individual course through the rock music scene in the late 60s and early 70s. Established in 1967 and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, Traffic began as a psychedelic rock band and eventually diversified their sound through the use of unconventional rock instruments. At a time when electric guitars ruled rock, Traffic emphasized Winwood’s organ and the variety of woodwind instruments played by Chris Wood, especially the flute.
Essential listening: Forty Thousand Headmen
The Moody Blues
Named under the assumption that they could get an endorsement from a brewery called M&B Brewery, the Moody Blues started out as one of the better R&B-based combos of the British Invasion. Their flutist, Ray Thomas, was such an incredible force to be reckoned with that he was actually given the nickname “The Flute”- no doubt due to his impeccable musicianship and flute-playing skills. Although Ray Thomas’ flute was present on their debut album, it wasn’t until their second album that the instrument became far more featured, as this is when the music of The Moody Blues started to incorporate distinct psychedelic influences.
Essential listening: Nights in White Satin
In general, you don’t hear a lot about Camel, a 1970s prog-rock outfit from England that have produced 14 original studio albums to date. They’re worth including on this list, though, because not only do they feature one flute player in the band, but two. While their flutists, Andrew Latimer and Mel Collins, typically play the flute on different songs and stick to the guitar, saxophone, or keyboards most of the time, they do both play the flute in “Rhyader/Rhyader Goes to Town”, an instrumental song that’s, you guessed it, heavy on the flute. Since their inception, Camel has been acknowledge as being one of the principal influences of the neo-progressive sub genre which emerged in the 1980s.
Essential listening: Rhyader/Rhyader Goes to Town
If you take a close listen to early Heart albums, you’ll notice that Ann Wilson is actually an incredibly talented flute player. Not only does she make the flute seem effortlessly cool, but she’s able to carve a place for it in the grittiness of the rock music Heart is known for. Although the group has had three primary line-ups throughout its existence, the line-up has always consisted of Ann Wilson and her sister Nancy. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013, Heart is one of the most commercially enduring hard rock bands in history.
Essential listening: Crazy On You