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"Headbanger" redirects here. For the figure skating lift, see Figure skating lifts § Illegal positions.
For information concerning medical head banging, see Stereotypic movement disorder.
Death metal band Asphyx headbanging during a performance.

Headbanging is violently shaking one's head in time with music, normally to whip long hair back and forth. Headbanging is sometimes used by musicians on stage, and is most common in the rock, punk and heavy metal music genres.


The origin of the term "headbanging" is contested. It is possible that the term "headbanger" was coined during Led Zeppelin's first US tour in 1969.[1] During a show at the Boston Tea Party, audience members in the first row were banging their heads against the stage in rhythm with the music.

Ozzy Osbourne and Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath are among the first documented headbangers, as it is possible to see on a band's concert in Paris, 1970.[2]

Lemmy from Motörhead, however, said in an interview on the documentary The Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years, that the term "Headbanger" may have originated in the band's name, as in "Motorheadbanger".

Ian Gillan, frontman of Deep Purple, when asked if he invented headbanging, said: "That’s a definite possibility", although he claimed that "it was not really head banging — more hair floating".[3]

The practice itself and its association with the rock genre was popularized by guitarist Angus Young of the band AC/DC.[4]

Dave Tyo of Bipolar demonstrating the 'whiplash' technique at CBGB in New York City.

Health issues[edit]

In 2005, Terry Balsamo, Evanescence guitarist, incurred a stroke from headbanging.[5] In 2007, Irish singer and former Moloko vocalist Roisin Murphy suffered an eye injury during a performance of her song "Primitive" when she headbanged into a chair on stage.[6] In 2009, Slayer bassist/vocalist Tom Araya began experiencing spinal problems due to his aggressive form of headbanging, and had to undergo anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.[7][8] In 2011, Megadeth guitarist Dave Mustaine said that his neck and spine condition, known as stenosis was caused by many years of headbanging.[9] Slipknot Sampler Craig Jones once suffered from whiplash after an extended case of powerful headbanging.

According to a 2014 medical journal article, a 50-year-old man presented at a hospital four weeks after headbanging at Motorhead concert after suffering from a persistent headache. A CT scan diagnosed the man with a chronic subdural haematoma. The authors found three cases of subdural haematoma secondary to headbanging in the medical literature, one of which was an acute haematoma leading to the patient's sudden death.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lewis, Dave; Pallett, Simon. Led Zeppelin: Concert File. Omnibus Press. ISBN 1-84449-659-7. 
  2. ^ Black Sabbath Paris 1970 live
  3. ^ Ian Gillan & Ian Paice Interview with Simon Copeland from The Sun, March 2007 deep-purple.net. 2007. Retrieved on 2009-09-03.
  4. ^ How to Head Bang Connor Richards, Yahoo Contributor Network Jan 6, 2009
  5. ^ Evanescence Guitarist: Filling Ben Moody's Shoes | Interviews @ Ultimate-Guitar.Com
  6. ^ Roisin Murphy’s Head-Banging-Accident iheartberlin.de. 30 October 2007. Retrieved on 24 August 2012.
  7. ^ Slayer Frontman Tom Araya To Undergo Back Surgery, American Carnage Tour To Be Rescheduled metealunderground.com. 7 January 2010. Retrieved on 4 August 2012.
  8. ^ No more headbanging for mortal Slayer frontman
  9. ^ Ouch! Headbanging Hurts
  10. ^ Ariyan Pirayesh Islamian, Manolis Polemikos Joachim K Krauss (5 July 2014). "Chronic subdural haematoma secondary to headbanging". The Lancet 384 (9937): 102. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60923-5.