"Born to Be Wild" is a song first performed by the band Steppenwolf, written by Mars Bonfire. The song is often invoked in both popular and counter culture to denote a biker appearance or attitude. It is sometimes described as the first heavy metal song, and the second verse lyric "heavy metal thunder" marks the first use of this term in rock music (although not as a description of a musical style).
"Born to Be Wild" was written by Mars Bonfire (who also wrote several other songs for Steppenwolf) as a ballad. Bonfire was previously a member of the Sparrows, the predecessor band to Steppenwolf, and his brother was Steppenwolf's drummer. Although he initially offered the song to other bands — The Human Expression, for one — "Born to Be Wild" was first recorded in 1967 by Steppenwolf in a sped-up and rearranged version, that AllMusic's Hal Horowitz described as "a roaring anthem of turbo-charged riff rock" and "a timeless radio classic as well as a slice of '60s revolt that at once defines Steppenwolf's sound and provided them with their shot at AM immortality."
In 1985, the song was covered by Australian band Rose Tattoo. Their version peaked at No. 25 in Australia. In 2002, it was covered by Kim Wilde and released as a non-album single. It reached No. 84 in Germany and No. 71 in Switzerland.Tanja Dexters also covered the song in 2002. Her version peaked at No. 21 in Belgium.
The song was initially released in 1968, but it was subsequently included in many compilation albums and soundtracks. The first of these was the soundtrack for the movie Easy Rider, released in 1969. Unlike the album or single version, the song on this soundtrack is accompanied by the sounds of motorcycles as an introduction (another Steppenwolf song from their first album, "The Pusher", was also used in the film). When the movie was in production, "Born to Be Wild" was used simply as a placeholder, since Peter Fonda had wanted Crosby, Stills & Nash to do the movie's soundtrack. Eventually, it became clear that the song was well suited for the movie.
Steppenwolf's version of "Born to Be Wild" has been used in several movies, trailers, TV shows and commercials, including:
^Inglis, Ian (2003). Popular Music and Film. Wallflower Press. p. 13. ISBN978-1-903364-71-0. Steppenwolf's 'Born To Be Wild', a gritty, hard rock song that quickly became an anthem for defiant individualism.
^Dimery, Robert (2011). 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die. Octopus Publishing Group. ISBN978-1-84403-717-9. Steppenwolf's proto-metal "Born to Be Wild," heard over the opening credits of Easy Rider, which made U.S. No. 2 for three weeks
^Hoskyns, Barney (1996). Waiting For the Sun: The Story of the Los Angeles Music Scene. Viking. p. 172. The brilliant soundtrack, including the Byrds' 'Wasn't Born to Follow', Steppenwolf's proto-metal 'Born to be Wild', and Jimi Hendrix's 'If Six Was Nine', helped to set the film in a kind of outlaw-rock'n'roll context.