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
  • 3:30
  • 3:02 (7")
Writer(s) Mars Bonfire
Producer(s) Gabriel Mekler
Steppenwolf singles chronology
"A Girl I Knew"
"Born to Be Wild"
"The Pusher"

"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).[5]


"Born to Be Wild" was written by Mars Bonfire (who also wrote several other songs for Steppenwolf) as a ballad.[6] 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[7] — "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."[6]

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.[8] Also in 2004, it finished at #29 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema. In 2009, it was named the 53rd best hard rock song of all time by VH1.[9]

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

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
Producer(s) Ricki Wilde
Kim Wilde singles chronology
"Born to Be Wild"
"Anyplace, Anywhere, Anytime"

In 1985, the song was covered by Australian band Rose Tattoo. Their version peaked at No. 25 in Australia.[20] In 2002, it was covered by Kim Wilde and released as a non-album single. It reached No. 84 in Germany[21] and No. 71 in Switzerland.[22] Tanja Dexters also covered the song in 2002. Her version peaked at No. 21 in Belgium.[23]

Other artists that covered this song include Hinder,[24] Etta James,[25] Link Wray,[25] Slade,[26] The Cult,[27] INXS,[25] Ozzy Osbourne with Miss Piggy,[28] Bruce Springsteen,[25] Slayer,[29] Blue Öyster Cult,[25] Status Quo,[25] Fanfare Ciocărlia,[30] Krokus,[31] Wilson Pickett[25] and La Renga.[32]


Rose Tattoo version[edit]

Chart (1985) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[20] 25

Kim Wilde version[edit]

Chart (2002) Peak
Germany (Official German Charts)[21] 84
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[22] 71

Tanja Dexter version[edit]

Chart (2002) Peak
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[23] 21

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:


  1. ^ Inglis, Ian (2003). Popular Music and Film. Wallflower Press. p. 13. ISBN 978-1-903364-71-0. Steppenwolf's 'Born To Be Wild', a gritty, hard rock song that quickly became an anthem for defiant individualism. 
  2. ^ "Heavy Metal". Billboard 99 (18): H-1. May 10, 1986. ISSN 0006-2510. 
  3. ^ Dimery, Robert (2011). 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die. Octopus Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1-84403-717-9. 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 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ Walser, Robert (1993). Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 978-0-8195-6260-9. 
  6. ^ a b Horowitz, Hal. "Born to Be Wild – Song Review". AllMusic. All Media Network. 
  7. ^ The Human Expression: Love at Psychedelic Velocity (Media notes). Collectables Records. 1994. 
  8. ^ The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (1–500) at the Wayback Machine (archived August 20, 2006). Rolling Stone. RealNetworks. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  9. ^ "Vh1 Top 100 Hard Rock Songs". January 1, 2009. Retrieved February 7, 2009. 
  10. ^ " – Steppenwolf – Born To Be Wild" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved July 2, 2013.
  11. ^ a b " – Steppenwolf – Born To Be Wild" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved July 2, 2013.
  12. ^ CHART NUMBER 598 – Monday, July 15, 1968 at the Wayback Machine (archived July 29, 2007). CHUM. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  13. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 5856." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  14. ^ " – Steppenwolf – Born To Be Wild". GfK Entertainment. Retrieved July 2, 2013.
  15. ^ a b c "Nederlandse Top 40 – Steppenwolf – Born To Be Wild search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. Retrieved July 2, 2013.
  16. ^ "Archive Chart: 1969-07-05" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved July 2, 2013.
  17. ^ "Steppenwolf – Awards". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved July 2, 2013. 
  18. ^ a b " – Steppenwolf – Born To Be Wild" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved July 2, 2013.
  19. ^ "Archive Chart: 1999-02-27" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved July 2, 2013.
  20. ^ a b "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – CHART POSITIONS PRE 1989". Hung Medien. Retrieved June 17, 2014. 
  21. ^ a b " – Kim Wilde – Born To Be Wild". GfK Entertainment.
  22. ^ a b " – Kim Wilde – Born To Be Wild". Swiss Singles Chart.
  23. ^ a b " – Tania Dexter – Born To Be Wild" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  24. ^ Johnston, Maura (December 11, 2009). "The 50 Worst Songs of the '00s, F2K No. 15: Hinder, "Born To Be Wild"". The Village Voice. Retrieved May 4, 2015. 
  25. ^ a b c d e f g Leszczak, Bob (2014). Who Did It First?: Great Rock and Roll Cover Songs and Their Original Artists. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 25. ISBN 978-1-4422-3321-8. 
  26. ^ Cook, Stephen. "Slade – Slade Alive!". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved July 18, 2013. 
  27. ^ Raggett, Ned. "The Cult – Electric". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved July 18, 2013. 
  28. ^ Monger, James Christopher. "Ozzy Osbourne – Prince of Darkness". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved July 18, 2013. 
  29. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "Various Artists – NASCAR on Fox: Crank It Up". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved July 18, 2013. 
  30. ^ a b Phares, Heather. "Original Soundtrack – Borat [Original Soundtrack]". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved July 18, 2013. 
  31. ^ Eremenko, Alexey. "Krokus – Hoodoo". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved July 18, 2013. 
  32. ^ "El día en que LA RENGA hizo estallar el Víctor Jara por primera vez" (in Spanish). July 9, 2013. Retrieved January 30, 2014. 

External links[edit]