"Born to Be Wild" is a song written by Mars Bonfire and first performed by the band Steppenwolf, 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 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 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. Her cover 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 film.
^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.
^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.