Inventor of the Air Guitar

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Inventor of the Air Guitar

Post by gitgeezer » Sat Jun 29, 2019 9:43 pm

There has been some discussion on this forum of the air guitar, but has anyone ever mentioned who invented it? Smithsonian Magazine says it was Joe Cocker, and he did it at Woodstock.

"Joe Cocker could feel the music channeling through his body as he began his final number on the Woodstock stage. With one hand, the singer mimed the song's opening piano notes, and then, as the drums kicked in, Cocker lifted his left arm and swung his right in front of his body in perfect time with the dramatic first chords of his hit 'With a Little Help From My Friends." The term wouldn't be popularized until the 1980s, but there, in front of hundreds of thousands of people, Joe Cocker was playing air guitar.
You could start the history of the invisible instrument at that formative moment in 1969, says Bird McDaniel, an ethnomusicologist at Northwestern University."

—Smithsonian Magazine, August 2019

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Re: Inventor of the Air Guitar

Post by ddray » Sun Jun 30, 2019 5:54 am

I don't know, but that reminds me that Cocker's version of "With a Little Help from My Friends" is probably my second all-time favorite cover anyway.

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Re: Inventor of the Air Guitar

Post by pogmoor » Sun Jun 30, 2019 7:14 pm

It appears that there has been some academic research on the history of the air guitar. Googling: "Air Apparent: Amplifying the History of Air Guitar, Air Bands, and Air Playing in the Twentieth Century" will find a couple pages that cite the article. (In one case you need an academic affiliation to gain access on the other you can request a download without any affiliation.)
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Re: Inventor of the Air Guitar

Post by Rick Hutt » Mon Jul 01, 2019 1:48 pm

I am working on an air guitar case which will be able to travel an all airlines. Taking some time to figure out the exact specs.
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Re: Inventor of the Air Guitar

Post by Kenbobpdx » Mon Jul 01, 2019 2:50 pm

Rick Hutt wrote:
Mon Jul 01, 2019 1:48 pm
I am working on an air guitar case which will be able to travel an all airlines. Taking some time to figure out the exact specs.
They will still find a way to turn your air guitar into matchsticks.
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Re: Inventor of the Air Guitar

Post by RJVB » Mon Jul 01, 2019 6:30 pm

Not if you make it in/deflatable so it'll fit your pocket. Just don't use any metal :)
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Re: Inventor of the Air Guitar

Post by Andrew Pohlman » Mon Jul 01, 2019 6:39 pm

I missed the giveaway. Too bad too. I heard they were some of the best instruments available:
Free-Air-Guitar.jpg
For the record - it was NOT Joe Cocker. I was dancing with pretend instruments while watching Captain Kangaroo many moons before Joe was around.
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Re: Inventor of the Air Guitar

Post by gitgeezer » Tue Jul 02, 2019 2:38 am

It's true that air playing (and air conducting) predates Joe Cocker, by centuries. Byrd McDaniel, mentioned in my opening post, and fellow ethnomusicologist Sydney Hutchinson have made studies of its history. Attempts were made in the 19th century to kill the impulse by declaring it a form of mental illness. But in the 20th century, air playing became "a socially acceptable alternative for those who don't dance."

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Re: Inventor of the Air Guitar

Post by Rick Beauregard » Tue Jul 02, 2019 4:38 am

He may not have invented it, but Cocker has got to be the Segovia of Air Guitar, bringing it out of the closet from the hands of the peasants, and onto concert stages around the world. He created a repertoire where none existed before, out ot thin air, if you will, and commissioned work by modern composers, or did awesome covers. His greatest goal, to have the major conservatories around the world get stoned and go to concerts, has been achieved beyond his wildest dreams, and continues to grow to this day. He's created the atmosphere for his art to fly and reach heights never comtemplated, in spite of the heavy headwinds of critics whose heads were in the clouds. He provided the oxygen for this art form to florish.

That should set off some responses. The gauntlet has been thrown, into the air and to the ground.
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Re: Inventor of the Air Guitar

Post by RJVB » Tue Jul 02, 2019 9:12 am

(Shouldn't we be more concerned with the fallout of a certain, more recent, unplugged event? ;) )
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Re: Inventor of the Air Guitar

Post by bear » Tue Jul 02, 2019 11:51 am

Joe Cocker, like Columbus, discovered what millions of people knew about. By the way, I discovered Italy and claimed it for my country.
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Re: Inventor of the Air Guitar

Post by Big bird » Tue Jul 02, 2019 1:07 pm

Kenbobpdx wrote:
Mon Jul 01, 2019 2:50 pm
Rick Hutt wrote:
Mon Jul 01, 2019 1:48 pm
I am working on an air guitar case which will be able to travel an all airlines. Taking some time to figure out the exact specs.
They will still find a way to turn your air guitar into matchsticks.
Ain't it the truth..... :lol:
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Re: Inventor of the Air Guitar

Post by gitgeezer » Tue Jul 02, 2019 1:17 pm

Everything you said is right on target, Rick, but you stopped short of mentioning the competitive levels to which the air guitar has risen. The ethnomusicologists aforementioned included that achievement in their studies, beginning with the air guitar competition held at Florida State University in 1978. First prize, a stack of 25 vinyl records, was taken by "Mark Stagger and the Rolling Bones."

This coming August, according to the Smithsonian article, "top air guitarists from nearly a dozen countries will compete in front of some 30,000 people in Oulu, Finland, at the 24th annual Air Guitar World Championship. They will be judged on technical skills (which are different from those needed to play an actual guitar), stage presence, and 'airness.'" Well, I wouldn't have guessed that the skills required for the two types of instruments would be different!

What is this "airness" mentioned in the aspects to be judged? It's that "spark of creativity [that] makes the song come alive," according to Eric "Mean" Melin, "who won the 2013 world title by swinging the guitar behind his back, Kip Winger style."

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Re: Inventor of the Air Guitar

Post by marvluse » Wed Jul 03, 2019 9:05 pm

The air guitar was invented by a guy named Air Head. Seems the space between his ears was empty, and open to the atmosphere. :roll:

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