30 Day Song Challenge Day 7 – “Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf

The subject for Day 7 of my 30 Day Song Challenge is “A song to drive to in the morning“. I think it’s a rather odd subject, but my interpretation is that it’s a song that gets you going in the morning, and the one that immediately comes to my mind is “Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf. If that adrenaline-inducing rocker – perfectly described by Hal Horowitz of AllMusic as “a roaring anthem of turbo-charged riff rock” – doesn’t charge your engines first thing in the morning, then nothing will!

“Born to Be Wild” was originally written as a ballad by Canadian rock musician Mars Bonfire (aka Dennis Edmonton), who was previously a member of the Sparrows, the predecessor band to Steppenwolf, and whose brother Jerry became Steppenwolf’s drummer. The other founding members of Steppenwolf included John Kay (born Joachim Fritz Krauledat in Germany) on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Michael Monarch on lead guitar, Rushton Moreve on bass, and Goldy McJohn on keyboards. Bonfire initially offered the song to a few other bands, but “Born to Be Wild” was eventually recorded by Steppenwolf in a sped-up and rearranged version that came to define their signature hard rock sound. Those raging riffs of shredded guitars, chugging rhythms and thunderous percussion, accompanied by fantastic psychedelic keyboards and Kay’s powerful gritty vocals, made the song a classic that beautifully captured the rebelliousness of the late 60s.

The song is often invoked in both popular and counter culture to symbolize a biker appearance or attitude, partly due to being featured in the 1969 film Easy Rider. It’s also been described by many as the first heavy metal song, and the second verse lyric “heavy metal thunder” was the first use of this term in rock music. According to Robert Walser in his 1993 book Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music, the words “heavy metal thunder” describe a motorcycle, not a musical style.

“Born to Be Wild” became Steppenwolf’s most successful single, reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles charts. (It was kept from the #1 spot by the Rascals’ “People Got to Be Free”.) Rolling Stone ranked “Born to Be Wild” at #129 on their 2004 list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and in the same year, the song was ranked #29 on AFI‘s 100 Years…100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema. VH1 ranked it #40 in their list of the 100 Greatest Songs of Rock and Roll in 2000, and the 53rd best hard rock song of all time in 2009. In 2018, the song was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in a new category for singles. (Wikipedia)

Here’s the iconic scene from Easy Rider in which “Born to Be Wild” is featured