The work now known as the Air on a G String is an arrangement for the violin made in the 19th Century from the Air of Johann Sebastian Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major. Bach originally wrote the suite for his patron Prince Leopold of Anhalt sometime between the years 1717 and 1723. It only attracted this nickname in 1871 when the German violinist August Wilhelmj (1845-1908) made a violin and piano arrangement of the second movement of this orchestral suite. By changing the key into C major and transposing the melody down an octave, Wilhelmj was able to play the piece on only one string of his violin, the G string.
In the UK, Jacques Loussier's arrangement for jazz trio was used as the background music for the long-running TV commercials for Hamlet cigars.
Procol Harum borrowed from this piece for their international hit, "A Whiter Shade of Pale." Gary Brooker of Procol Harum told Uncut magazine: "If you trace the chordal element, it does a bar or two of Bach's 'Air On A G String' before it veers off. That spark was all it took. I wasn't consciously combining Rock with Classical, it's just that Bach's music was in me." Also Sweetbox's 1998 UK #5 hit Everything's Gonna Be Alright was based around a version of this piece played by the Babelsberg Symphony Orchestra.