The album's title is considered to be one of the group's more somber, straying away from the upbeat and cocky attitude that was so prevalent on previous albums, such as All the Girls in the World Beware!!!, and focusing on darker musical and lyrical content concerning death, politics, and personal relationships. The title track was written by Farner in memory of his cousin who had died in a motorcycle accident. The more upbeat pop single, "Sally", released on 3 April, was written by Mark Farner for his then love interest, the actress/singer Sally Kellerman.
^Billy James An American Band: The Story of Grand Funk Railroad 1999 - Page 128 "Concerning the title track Farner said, '"Born To Die' was written for my cousin who passed away in a motorcycle accident. It was early the next morning after his death and I had the piano there. I just felt the song coming to me and I wrote it.