Born to be Wild

Steppenwolf (John Kay):  Born to be Wild

Quiz by Sharon Michiko Yoneda

 artist:  Steppenwolf (John Kay)

songwriter:  Mars Bonfire

date released:  1968 by Steppenwolf

"Born to be Wild", the Canadian-American road classic, remains in the public consciousness in film downloads, movie soundtracks, and ads which speaks of adventure and open-road freedom.   In 1969, it became the key song in the ultimate road film, "Easy Rider."

Mars Bonfire, nee Dennis Edmonton of Oshawa, Ontario, was living in L.A. as a fledgling songwriter-musician when he bought his first car--a Ford Falcon--suddenly giving him transport to the ocean, the mountains, and the high deserts of diverse and wondrous California.  Hence, the the motoring theme of the song was birthed.  

Some music historians speculate that the song was the spark of Heavy Metal music from the line:  "I like smoke and lightning, heavy metal thunder."

Bonfire summons his academic past when he explains that "heavy metal" was a category of the periodic table.  As with many hit songs which endure through time, many elements of the songwriter's experience are forged through alchemy into the purest gold.

From lyrics to vinyl, the song reached band leader, John Kay, who had just formed a new band in Yorkville, Toronto calling in the Edmonton brothers, Jerry and Dennis.  He named the band, "Steppenwolf."

Currently, Bonfire lives in L.A. as a successful songwriter.  He owns a KTM off-road motorcycle which kickstarts "Born to be Wild" with the kick-starter on his chopper. 

CNN's 12 Best Travel Songs of All Time:

12. Peter, Paul and Mary: 'Leaving on a Jet Plane' (1967)

11. I Nine: 'Same in Any Language' (2005) 

10. Gene Pitney: '24 Hours from Tulsa' (1963)

9. Iggy Pop: 'The Passenger' (1977)

8. M.I.A.: 'Paper Planes' (2008)

7. The Go-Go's: 'Vacation' (1982)

6. Simon and Garfunkel: 'Homeward Bound' (1966)

5. Hoodoo Gurus: '1,000 Miles Away' (1991)

4. Bob Dylan: 'Tangled Up in Blue' (1975)

3. Willie Nelson: 'On the Road Again' (1980)

2. Bruce Springsteen: 'Born to Run' (1975)

Drumrolls for Canada:

1. Steppenwolf: 'Born to be Wild' (1968)

(Story originally published in 2011)