Steppenwolf is a Canadian-American acid/blues/hard rock band with an ever-changing lineup that became famous beginning in the late 1960s. Formed in 1967 in Los Angeles by German-born lead singer John Kay (b. Joachim Fritz Krauledat, April 12, 1944), other original members included lead guitarist Michael Monarch, keyboardist Goldy McJohn (May 2, 1945 - August 1, 2017), drummer Jerry Edmonton (October 24, 1946 - November 28, 1993), and bass guitarist Rushton Moreve (November 6, 1948 - July 1, 1981). The band's name was inspired by the same-titled 1927 novel by Hermann Hesse.
Steppenwolf debuted on the Pop/Rock charts in 1968 with the era-defining "Born To Be Wild," a thunderous rocker showcasing Kay's powerful, gruff vocals which became a Top 5 hit and soon after went gold. Both this biker's anthem classic, which made Steppenwolf internationally famous, and the band's cover of Hoyt Axton's "The Pusher" were featured prominently in the 1969 counterculture cult movie, "Easy Rider," co-starring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson. "Born To Be Wild" was also the first song to introduce to popular music the term, "heavy metal," although not in connection with music, but in reference to the roar of a revved-up motorcycle (
I like smoke and lightning, heavy metal thunder, racin' with the wind ...).
"Born To Be Wild" was followed in late 1968 by "Magic Carpet Ride," a psychedelic acid rock classic co-written by Kay and Moreve which also made the Pop/Rock Top 5 and became another gold-certified signature song for the band. Steppenwolf followed up with the hard-hitting "Rock Me" (1969), a Kay-penned rocker which became a Top 10 hit. The band's long string of hits, which continued through 1975, also included "It's Never Too Late" (1969), "Move Over" (1969), "Monster" (1969), "Hey Lawdy Mama" (1970), "Who Needs Ya" (1970), "Snow Blind Friend" (1971), "Ride With Me" (1971), "Straight Shootin' Woman" (1974), and "Smokey Factory Blues" (1975). In 1999, "Born To Be Wild" resurfaced on the U.K. charts in the Top 20 upon its re-release on the album, "20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Best Of Steppenwolf."
After Steppenwolf disbanded in 1972, Kay went on to pursue a solo career and had a minor hit later that year with "I'm Movin' On." The band reformed several times over the years under Kay's leadership with different lineups and has continued to perform and record to the present. Steppenwolf has sold over 25 million records worldwide, with seven gold- and one platinum-certified album to date. Kay was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame in 2004.
- For more info about the history of Steppenwolf and the band's current projects, plus interviews, visit steppenwolf.com.
- uDiscovermusic.com remembers drummer Jerry Edmonton.
- The Toronto Sun remembers keyboardist Goldy McJohn.
- Rockandrollparadise.com remembers bassist Rushton Moreve.
Steppenwolf performs "Born To Be Wild" on The Ed Sullivan Show (August 17, 1969).
To listen to a song clip, click any song title that has a speaker icon. This will take you to a list of links to CD and/or MP3 product pages from one or more online merchants that have sound samples.
- Born To Be Wild 1968
(This song later also became a hit for Wilson Pickett (1969).)
- Hey Lawdy Mama 1970
- Magic Carpet Ride 1968
- Monster 1969
- Move Over 1969
- Ride With Me 1971
- Rock Me 1969
- Snow Blind Friend 1971
- Who Needs Ya 1970
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