Meaning of “Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf | A Lyrics Analysis


Canadian-American rock band Steppenwolf is no wonder, but they will be forever remembered for their iconic rock ballad “Born to Be Wild”. Steppenwolf was the first artist to perform the song, although dozens have done so since. However, none followed the spirit Steppenwolf brought in this song. In this article, we explore the success of the song that has long contributed to the band’s success, and the meaning of the song.

“Born to Be Wild” was written by Mars Bonfire, a member of The Sparrows, which was eventually renamed Steppenwolf. The song was originally written as a ballad, however, Steppenwolf picked up the pace and converted it into a rock anthem. Steppenwolf released “Born to Be Wild” as the third single from their self-titled 1968 debut studio album.

“Born to Be Wild” reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, marking Steppnwolf’s most successful single. In Canada, the song peaked at # 1 and # 30 on the UK Singles Chart. In 2004, Rolling Stones magazine ranked the song 130th on its list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. In 2018, the song was inducted into the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame”.

“Born to Be Wild” was used in the soundtrack for the 1969 movie “Easy Rider”, which contributed to the popularity of the song and helped establish the song as a central soundtrack in biker communities. Another popular Steppenwolf song “The Pusher” was also used in the same OST movie.

Later, artists such as Hinder, Etta James, Ozzy Osbourne, Bruce Springsteen, Slayer and many more covered this song.

Watch Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” Music Video from “Easy Ride”

Buy the album “The Best of Steppenwolf” on Apple Music and Amazon

Steppenwolf “Born to Be Wild” Lyrics Song Meaning and Review

Steppenwolf lead singer John Kay explained what this song meant to him; “Every generation thinks they were born to be wild, and they can relate to this song as their hymn.”

Songwriter, Mars Bonfire, explained how he came up with the idea for “Born to Be Wild” what it meant to him;

“I was walking down Hollywood Boulevard one day and saw a poster in a window saying ‘Born to Ride’ with a picture of a motorcycle sticking out of the earth like a volcano with all that fire around it. , I had just bought my first car, a used little Ford Falcon. So it all came together with the lyrics: the idea of ​​the bike with the freedom and joy I felt to have my first car and to be able to drive me whenever I wanted. ‘Born To Be Wild’ didn’t initially stand out. Even the publishers of Leeds Music didn’t take it as the first or second song I got to them. “They got it only because I signed on as editor. Luckily that stood out for Steppenwolf. It’s more of a fluke than an achievement, though.”

The term “born to be wild” refers to human nature to be carefree and carefree. The lyrics capture this essence and spray it all over the listener.

Verse 1

The beginning of the song is dedicated to the bikers who roamed from town to town, seemingly unrelated by anything or anyone they encounter along the way. In the movei ‘Easy Rider’, the plot of the story is that of two bikers traveling through the southwest and southern United States. The film tackles topics of socio-cultural issues persistenet during the time and also the hippie culture.

Hippie culture truly practiced the art of freeing oneself from material attachments.


At the hook of the song, the singers invite everyone to embrace the love. It is also a main theme around hippie culture. However, unlike that, Steppenwolf sings too;

Fire all your guns at once
And explode in space

These lines helped “Born to Be Wild” also qualify as an anti-war song. The lyrics suggest emptying any ammunition nations hold to be fired into empty space. There is no need to kill each other. We are all one, after all.

Verse 2

In the song’s second verse, Steppenwolf delves deeper into the lifestyle they’ve embraced, especially in light of bikers.

I love smoke and lightning

For bikers, smoke could mean smoke from their motorcycles when they accelerate them. In the context of hippie culture, smoke could be a reference to marijuana, which was a very popular recreational drug among hippies. Lightning could be a reference to smoking or even making cocaine. In the movie “Easy Rider”, the two bikers cross the States with the proceeds of a cocaine deal. Some fans also argue that lightning could be a clue to the drug lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) which is known to give vivid and bizarre sickening effects.

The next line of the verse “The thunder of heavy metals” went down in the history books as the first time the genre of heavy metal was referenced in a rock song. However, Steppenwolf was probably not talking about the rock genre, but rather thunder-sounding motorcycles such as those made by Harley Davidson.


These words captured the world from the 60s to today.

Like a real child of nature
We were born, born to be wild

It is disheartening how many human souls are hopelessly stuck in the systematic imprisonment called society. We have spent a good 40 years (often half of our life expectancy) at a desk, overwhelmed by stress and pressure to be able to feed ourselves the next month. We make children, teach them, make them work and give them children of their own. And the cycle continues.

Humans probably weren’t designed to be that way. We are at our best when we are with nature. But this may be due to the fact that humanity did not have time to evolve beyond the roots of our ancestors, who lived in harmony with nature. Maybe all the psychological issues, mental illnesses, depression, anxiety, stress, suicides, and all of the work is growing pains of the transition of our genetics from ‘born to be wild’ to ‘ born to work “.

Let us know what you think of this song in the comments below. Check out the full lyrics on Genius.

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