Born to Be Wild

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This article is about the song. For other uses, see Born to Be Wild (disambiguation).
"Born to Be Wild"
Single by Steppenwolf
from the album Steppenwolf
B-side "Everybody's Next One"
Released June 1968
Format 45-single
Recorded Fall 1967
Genre
Length 3:30
3:02 (7")
Label Dunhill
RCA / #D-4138
Writer(s) Mars Bonfire
Producer(s) Gabriel Mekler
Steppenwolf singles chronology
"A Girl I Knew"
(1967)
"Born to Be Wild"
(1968)
"The Pusher"
(1968)

"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).[3]

Composition[edit]

"Born to Be Wild" was written by Mars Bonfire (who also wrote several other songs for Steppenwolf) as a ballad.[4] Writer 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[5] — "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."[4]

Release and reception[edit]

"Born to Be Wild" was the band's third single off their 1968 debut album Steppenwolf and became their most successful single, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles charts. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine placed "Born to Be Wild" at No. 129 on the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.[6] In 2009, it was named the 53rd best hard rock song of all time by VH1.[7]

Chart performance[edit]

Preceded by
"Hurdy Gurdy Man" by Donovan
Canadian CHUM number-one single
July 15, 1968 (1 week)
Succeeded by
"Hello, I Love You" by The Doors
Preceded by
"People Got to Be Free" by The Rascals
Canadian RPM number-one single
September 2, 1968 (1 week)
Succeeded by
"Light My Fire" by José Feliciano

Cultural references[edit]

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:

Cover versions[edit]

"Born to Be Wild"
Single by Kim Wilde
B-side "All About Me"
Released October 14, 2002
Format CD single
Genre Pop
Length 3:23 (Radio Mix)
Label Edel
Writer(s) Mars Bonfire
Producer(s) Ricki Wilde
Kim Wilde singles chronology
"Loved"
(2001)
"Born to Be Wild"
(2002)
"Anyplace, Anywhere, Anytime"
(2003)
"Born to Be Wild"
Single by Hinder
from the album Extreme Behavior (re-release)
Was the NASCAR on TNT theme song from 2007–2008
Released August 2007
Format CD single
Genre
Label Universal
Writer(s) Mars Bonfire
Hinder singles chronology
"Homecoming Queen"
(2007)
"Born to Be Wild"
(2007)
"Use Me"
(2008)

In 1985, the song was covered by Australian band Rose Tattoo. Their version peaked at No. 25 in Australia.[19] In 2002, it was covered by Kim Wilde and released as a non-album single. It reached No. 84 in Germany[20] and No. 71 in Switzerland.[21] Tanja Dexters also covered the song in 2002. Her version peaked at No. 21 in Belgium.[22]

Other artists that covered this song include Etta James, Adam Lambert, Green Jellÿ, Link Wray,[23] The Mooney Suzuki, Slade,[24] Riot, The Cult,[25] INXS,[26] Alvin and the Chipmunks, Tomoyasu Hotei, Raven with Udo Dirkschneider, Ozzy Osbourne and Miss Piggy,[27] Bruce Springsteen, Slayer,[28] X Japan, Blue Öyster Cult,[29] Status Quo,[30] Kirka, Fanfare Ciocărlia,[18] Lizzy Borden, The Residents, Hampton String Quartet, Krokus,[31] Wilson Pickett[32] and La Renga[33]

Charts[edit]