12 flautists flauting: A user's guide to the greatest moments in flute-rock history

André 3000’s first LP in 17 years, set for release on Friday, will not be the rap album many OutKast fans have been waiting for. Nor will it be the kind of funk-rock experiment he rode to Grammy acclaim on “The Love Below.” Rather, “New Blue Sun” will be an all-instrumental album showcasing the ambient flute and wind-instrument music he’s been clandestinely blowing in unexpected venues like the Atlanta airport.

André cites ethereal composers like Laraaji and Alice Coltrane as influences, and the album will sport a dream team of jazzy experimentalists like Carlos Niño, Nate Mercereau, Surya Botofasina and Matthewdavid.

André 3000 is far from alone in his love for the flute — the delicate instrument has had some heavy-hitter moments in rock ‘n’ roll (jazz and classical recordings more regularly feature flautists and are not included here). U.K. hard-rock band Jethro Tull, led by flute god Ian Anderson, infamously beat out Metallica for the first heavy metal Grammy, while R&B/pop star Lizzo has made the instrument chic again. But there are many others, from the mystics of the ’60s to today’s tripped-out rappers.

Here are a dozen flute-y classics.

1. Herbie Mann, “One Note Samba” (1962)

Alongside Stan Getz, flautist Mann helped bring Brazilian bossa nova to a curious American mainstream with this cover of the standard by Antônio Carlos Jobim. Check out the cover art of Mann’s “Push Push” if you prefer your flutes with a sidecar of chest hair.

2. The Beatles, “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” (1965)

A John Lennon classic off the “Help!” soundtrack, John Scott double-tracked a pair of flute parts that give the waltz-time track a regal finish.

3. The Mamas and the Papas, “California Dreamin’” (1965)

The song that drew thousands to our shores during the height of the hippie movement. It gets a lot of its witchy allure from Bud Shank’s alto flute solo, which he reportedly improvised in one take.

4. Canned Heat, “Going up the Country” (1968)

A Woodstock anthem from one of the fest’s signature acts. Jim Horn kicks it off with a jaunty flute riff inspired by blues vet Henry Thomas.

5. Van Morrison, “Moondance” (1970)

Before he became a COVID conspiracist, Morrison beguiled audiences with his mystical folk-rock, and this jazzy number, with flute arrangements from Collin Tilton, remains his most enduring song.

6. Jethro Tull, “Locomotive Breath” (1971)

The seeds for one of the Grammys’ most objectively wacky choices — Jethro Tull over Metallica for hard rock/metal performance in 1989 — were sown on this ripping track from 1971’s “Aqualung.” One of Anderson’s best solos.

7. Mercury Rev, “Something for Joey”

By the ‘90s, the instrument had become somewhat passé in rock, but the experimental New York band Mercury Rev made artful use of flautist Suzanne Thorpe, as on this highlight from 1993’s “Boces.”

8. Beastie Boys, “Flute Loop” (1994)

The famously sample-omnivorous trio took a slice of 1966’s “Flute Thing,” from the Blues Project’s “Projections,” for this cut off the era-defining “Ill Communication.”

9. India.Arie, “Ready for Love” (2001)

“Ready For Love” is a regal, devotional folk ballad on record, but when India.Arie puts down her guitar and pulls out her flute for solos in concert, it’s an instant barnburner.

10. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, “Trapdoor” (2015)

These Aussie psych-rockers have become unlikely arena headliners, and this manic cut from 2015’s “Paper Mâché Dream Balloon” shows the range of their weirdo ambitions.

11. Future, “Mask Off” (2017)

A genius flip of Carlton Williams’ “Prison Song” that spawned a million memes. Atlanta trap contains multitudes.

12. Lizzo, “About Damn Time” (2022)

Lizzo usually saves her flute pyrotechnics for the stage (or halls of government, playing James Madison’s crystal flute at the Library of Congress). But it’s a backbone of this Hot 100 smash that won her record of the year at the 2023 Grammys.

Honorable Mention: Celine Dion, “My Heart Will Go On” (1997)

Technically it’s a tin whistle, but we’d be remiss not to include the single most soaring woodwind line in all of cinema, courtesy of film-music vet Tony Hinnigan.

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